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Full text of "Jesus Christ in Flanders ; Melmoth Converted ; The Elixir of long life ; Seraphita"

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA 
AT LOS ANGELES 

BROWSING ROOM 





THE LIBRARY 

OF 

THE UNIVERSITY 
OF CALIFORNIA 

LOS ANGELES 



tre Balzac 

PHILOSOPHIC 
AND ANALYTIC STUDIES 

VOLUME II 



LIMITED TO ONE THOUSAND COMPLETE COPIES 



NO. 



THE ELIXIR OF LONG LIFE 



He took a piece of linen, and, after moistening it 
sparingly in the precious liquid, he touclicd lightly 
the rig/it eyelid of the corpse. The eye opened. 

"Aha! " exclaimed Don Juan, grasping the phial 
as, in a dream, we grasp the branch from which we 
are suspended over a precipice. 

He saw an eye sparkling with life. 



THE NOVELS 



OF 



HONORE DE BALZAC 



NOW FOR THE FIRST TIME 
COMPLETELY TRANSLATED INTO ENGLISH 




BY G. BURNHAM 1VES 



WITH FIVE ETCHINGS BY RICARDO DE LOS RIOS, AFTER 
PAINTINGS BY EDOUARD TOUDOUZE 



IN ONE VOLUME 



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PRINTED ONLY FOR SUBSCRIBERS BY 

GEORGE BARRIE & SON, PHILADELPHIA 



COPYRIGHT, 1899, BY GEORGE BARRIE & SON 



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JESUS CHRIST IN FLANDERS 



189971 



TO MARCELINE DESBORDES-VALMORE 

To you, a daughter of Flanders, and one of its 
recent glories, I dedicate this simple tradition of 
Flanders. 

DE BALZAC. 



At a somewhat indefinite period of Brabantine 
history, communication between the island of Wal- 
cheren and the shores of Flanders was maintained 
by a small vessel intended for the transportation of 
passengers. Middleburg, the capital of the island, 
at a later period so famous in the annals of Protest- 
antism, contained only two or three hundred houses. 
Wealthy and prosperous Ostend was an unknown 
seaport, flanked by a hamlet sparsely inhabited by 
a few fishermen, by poor tradesmen, and by un- 
molested pirates. Nevertheless, the hamlet of Os- 
tend, comprising about a score of houses and three 
hundred cabins, huts, or hovels built with the debris 
of shipwrecked vessels, enjoyed a governor, a mili- 
tia, a gallows, a convent, a burgomaster, in fact, all 
the symbols of advanced civilization. Who reigned 
at that time in Brabant, in Flanders, in Belgium? 
On that point, tradition is silent. Let us confess at 
once that this narrative is materially affected by 
the vagueness, the uncertainty, the admixture of the 
supernatural with which the favorite orators of 
Flemish festivals frequently interlarded their com- 
mentaries, whose poetic forms are as diverse as their 
details are contradictory. Told by generation after 
generation, repeated from fireside to fireside day and 
night by the old men, by the minstrels, this chronicle 
received a different coloring from each age. Like 
(5) 



6 JESUS CHRIST IN FLANDERS 

those monuments constructed according to the caprice 
of the architectural systems of each epoch, black, 
defaced masses which, nevertheless, delight the 
souls of poets, it would drive commentators, sifters 
of words, facts, and dates, to despair. The narrator 
believes it, as all the superstitious folk of Flanders 
have believed it, without thereby betraying greater 
learning or greater weakness of intellect. As it is 
impossible to reconcile all the versions, here is the 
story, stripped, it may be, of its romantic simplicity, 
which cannot be reproduced, but with its bold deeds 
which history disavows, with its moral lesson which 
religion approves, its strain of mysticism, a flower of 
the imagination, its hidden meaning which the wise 
man may interpret to suit himself. To every man 
his chosen pasturage and the task of sorting the 
good grain from the chaff. 

The boat that carried passengers from the island 
of Walcheren to Ostend was about to leave the vil- 
lage. Before casting off the iron chain by which his 
boat was made fast to a stone of the little pier where 
his passengers embarked, the skipper blew several 
blasts on his horn to summon those who were behind 
time, for that was his last trip. Night was approach- 
ing, by the fading gleams of the setting sun one 
could barely make out the Flemish coast and dis- 
tinguish the forms of the belated passengers, wan- 
dering along the earthen walls which surrounded the 
fields or among the tall reeds in the swamps. The 
boat was full; someone called out: 

" What are you waiting for? Let us start !" 



JESUS CHRIST IN FLANDERS 7 

At that moment, a young man appeared a few 
steps away from the pier; the pilot, who had neither 
seen him nor heard his footsteps, was much sur- 
prised at his sudden appearance. He seemed to 
have risen suddenly from the earth, as if he were 
a peasant who had lain down in a field awaiting 
the hour of departure, and had been awakened by 
the horn. Was he a thief? was he an officer of the 
customs or police? When he reached the pier at 
which the boat was moored, seven persons who 
were standing at the stern hastily took seats on the 
benches, so that they might be by themselves and 
not allow the stranger to join them. They acted in 
obedience to a swift, instinctive thought, one of 
those aristocratic thoughts that come to the minds 
of the rich. Four of these persons belonged to the 
oldest nobility of Flanders. First of all, a young 
cavalier, accompanied by two beautiful greyhounds 
and wearing upon his long hair a round cap adorned 
with precious stones, clashed his gilded spurs and 
twisted his moustache impatiently from time to time, 
casting contemptuous glances at the rest of the ship's 
company. A haughty young woman held a falcon 
on her wrist and spoke with no one but her mother 
and an ecclesiastic of high rank, evidently their kins- 
man. These four made a great noise and talked 
together as if they were alone on the boat. Never- 
theless, close beside them was a man of great im- 
portance in the country, a stout burgher of Bruges, 
wrapped in a great cloak. His servant, armed to 
the teeth, had placed two bags of gold by his side. 



8 JESUS CHRIST IN FLANDERS 

Next to them, again, was a man of learning, a doctor 
at the University of Louvain, attended by his clerk. 
These people, who severally looked down on one 
another, were separated from the bow of the boat 
by the bench of rowers. 

As the tardy passenger stepped aboard, he cast a 
rapid glance at the stern, saw that there was no 
room there, and went to seek a place among those 
who were in the bow. They were poor people. 
When they saw a bareheaded man, whose brown 
camlet coat and short-clothes and starched shirt-front 
were without ornament, who had neither cap nor hat 
on his head, neither sword nor purse in his girdle, they 
all took him for a burgomaster sure of his authority, 
a kindly, gentle-natured burgomaster like some of 
those old Flemings whose ingenuous characters have 
been so faithfully portrayed for us by the painters 
of the country. The poorer class of passengers 
therefore greeted the stranger with demonstrations 
of respect which gave birth to whispered raillery 
among the people at the stern. An old soldier, a 
man of toil and of fatigue, gave his place on the 
bench to the stranger, seated himself on the boat's 
rail, and maintained his balance by his manner of 
resting his feet against one of the wooden cross- 
pieces which connect the floor-boards of a boat, like 
the bones of a fish. A young woman, the mother of 
a little child, apparently belonging to the working- 
class of Ostend, moved aside to make more room 
for the new-comer. The movement implied neither 
servility nor disdain, it was one of those acts of 



JESUS CHRIST IN FLANDERS 9 

courtesy by which poor people, who know by ex- 
perience the value of a slight favor and the pleasures 
of fraternal intercourse, reveal- the frankness and 
naturalness of their hearts, so artless in the manifes- 
tation of their good qualities and their defects; and 
so the stranger thanked them with a gesture full of 
dignity. Then he took his seat between the young 
mother and the old soldier. Behind him were a 
peasant and his son, the latter a boy of ten. A 
poor woman, old and wrinkled, dressed in rags, with 
an almost empty wallet, a perfect type of reckless 
misery, was lying in the bow, curled up on a great 
pile of ropes. One of the rowers, an old sailor 
who had known her when she was lovely and rich, 
had taken her aboard, in accordance with the admi- 
rable expression of the common people, for the love 
of God. 

" Thank you, Thomas," the old woman had said; 
" I'll say two Paters and two Aves for you in my 
prayers to-night." 

The skipper blew the horn for the last time, cast 
his eye over the silent fields, threw the chain into 
the boat, ran along the rail to the stern, seized the 
tiller, and stood there as the boat drew away from 
the pier; then, after looking up at the sky and when 
they were in clear water, he shouted to his rowers 
in a ringing voice: 

" Pull, pull hard and fast! The sea has a squally 
smile, the old hag! I feel the swell in the way the 
rudder moves, and the wind in my old wounds." 

Those words, in the jargon of the sea, a language 



10 JESUS CHRIST IN FLANDERS 

intelligible only to the ears that are accustomed to 
the noise of the waves, gave to the oars a hurried 
but always rhythmical stroke; a united movement, 
as different from the previous style of rowing as a 
horse's gallop is from his trot. The aristocrats at 
the stern took pleasure in watching all those brawny 
arms, those brown faces with eyes of fire, those 
strained muscles, and those diverse human forces 
acting in concert to ferry them across the strait for 
a trifling toll. Far from deploring their poverty, 
those people called one another's attention laugh- 
ingly to the grotesque expressions which the ex- 
ertion imparted to their distorted features. In the 
bow, the soldier, the peasant, and the old woman 
gazed at the oarsmen with the sympathy natural to 
persons who, as they live by toil, are familiar with 
the intense suffering and feverish fatigue it causes. 
Moreover, being accustomed to life in the open air, 
they all realized from the appearance of the sky the 
danger that threatened them, and therefore they 
were all serious. The young mother rocked her 
child in her arms, crooning an old church hymn to 
soothe him to sleep. 

" If we get there," said the soldier to the peasant, 
"the good Lord will show that He's obstinate about 
letting us live." 

" Oh! He's the Master," interposed the old crone, 
"but I think it's His pleasure to call us to Him. 
Look at that light over yonder!" 

With a movement of her head, she pointed to the 
west, where bands of flame stood out vividly against 



JESUS CHRIST IN FLANDERS II 

a bank of brown, red-edged clouds which seemed on 
the point of setting free a furious gale. The sea 
made a dull, muttering sound, a sort of inward rum- 
bling, not unlike the voice of a dog when he growls. 
But, after all, Ostend was not far away. At that 
moment, sky and sea presented one of those spec- 
tacles to which it is impossible, perhaps, for 
painting, as for poetry, to give a longer duration 
than they really have. Human creations demand 
striking contrasts. So it is that artists generally 
seek at Nature's hands its most gorgeous phenom- 
ena, despairing doubtless of their ability to interpret 
the grand and beautiful poesy of its everyday aspect, 
although the human mind is often as deeply moved 
in calm as in confusion, by silence as by the tempest. 
There was a moment when everyone on the boat 
was silent, gazing at sea and sky, whether from a 
presentiment, or in obedience to that religious melan- 
choly which seizes almost all of us at the hour of 
prayer, at nightfall, at the moment when Nature is 
silent and the church-bells speak. The sea cast a 
white, pale reflection, changing, however, and not 
unlike the colors of steel. The sky was generally 
of a grayish hue. In the west were long narrow 
bands like waves of blood, while in the east, gleam- 
ing lines, as sharply defined as if drawn by a fine 
pencil, were separated by dark clouds lying in folds, 
like wrinkles on an old man's forehead. Thus on 
all sides, the sea and sky had a sombre look, all in 
half-tones, which threw into bold relief the ominous 
flames of the setting sun. That aspect of Nature 



12 JESUS CHRIST IN FLANDERS 

inspired a feeling of deep awe. If it were permis- 
sible to import the bold metaphors of the common 
people into written language, we might repeat what 
the soldier said, that " the weather was on the run," 
or what the peasant replied, that "the sky looked 
like a hangman." The wind suddenly sprung up 
from the westward, and the skipper, who had not 
taken his eyes from the water, seeing the swell 
rising on the horizon, cried out: 

"Hold hard! hold hard!" 

At that cry, the oarsmen at once ceased rowing 
and lay on their oars. 

" The skipper's right," said Thomas, coolly, when 
the boat, after rising to the crest of a huge wave, 
rushed down as if into a deep abyss opened by the 
sea. 

At that extraordinary movement, at that sudden 
outburst of wrath on the part of old Ocean, the pas- 
sengers at the stern turned pale as death and uttered 
a piercing shriek: 

"We are lost!" 

" Oh! no, not yet," rejoined the skipper, calmly. 

At that moment, the clouds were torn asunder by 
the wind directly over the boat. The gray masses 
having spread out with ominous celerity to east and 
west, the twilight gleam fell full upon the boat 
through the rift made by the storm and enabled the 
passengers to see one another's faces. Noble and 
wealthy, sailors and paupers, all alike were struck 
dumb with amazement at the aspect of the last 
comer. His golden hair, parted in two bands above 



JESUS CHRIST IN FLANDERS 13 

His serene and placid brow, fell In numberless curls 
over His shoulders, outlining against the gray atmos- 
phere a face of sublime sweetness, wherein the di- 
vine love shone resplendent. He did not despise 
death, He was certain of not dying. 

But, although the people at the stern forgot for a 
moment the implacable fury of the tempest that 
threatened them, they soon reverted to their selfish- 
ness and their life-long habits. 

" That stupid burgomaster is very fortunate not to 
see the danger that threatens us all ! He sits there 
like a dog and will die without distress," said the 
professor. 

He had barely given expression to that seemingly 
just sentiment when the tempest set free its legions. 
The wind blew from all directions, the boat whirled 
about like a top, and the water came in. 

" Oh ! my poor child ! my poor child ! Who will 
save my child?" cried the mother, in a heart-rending 
voice. 

" You yourself," replied the stranger. 

The clear note of that voice entered the young 
mother's heart and planted hope therein; she heard 
that comforting word despite the howling of the gale, 
despite the shrieks of the passengers. 

" Blessed Virgin of Succor, who dwellest at Ant- 
werp, I promise you a thousand pounds of wax and 
a statue if you bring me safely out of this!" cried 
the burgher, kneeling on his sacks of gold. 

" The Virgin is no more at Antwerp than she is 
here," observed the professor. 



14 JESUS CHRIST IN FLANDERS 

" She is in heaven," said a voice that seemed to 
come from the sea. 

" Who can it be that spoke?" 

"It was the devil!" cried the servant, "he is 
making fun of the Virgin of Antwerp!" 

"Drop your Blessed Virgin," said the skipper to 
the passengers. " Just take these buckets and bale 
out the boat. And you fellows," he added, turning 
to the oarsmen, " row steady! We have a moment's 
lull; in the name of the devil who lets you stay in 
this world, let's be our own providence. This little 
channel's an infernally dangerous place, as everyone 
knows, and I've been crossing it these thirty years. 
Is to-night the first time I have fought a gale?" 

Then, standing at the helm, the skipper continued 
to look at his boat, the sky, and the sea, in succes- 
sion. 

" He always laughs at everything, does the skip- 
per," said Thomas, in an undertone. 

"Will God let us die with those wretches?" the 
haughty young woman asked the handsome young 
nobleman. 

" No, no, noble lady. Listen!" 

He drew her toward him, and said in her ear: 

" I know how to swim, but do not mention it! I 
will take you by your lovely hair and carry you 
safely to the shore; but I can save none but you!" 

The young woman looked at her aged mother. 
She was on her knees asking absolution for some- 
thing from the bishop, who was not listening to her. 
The chevalier read in his lovely mistress's eyes a 



JESUS CHRIST IN FLANDERS 15 

faint trace of filial affection, and said to her, in a 
hollow voice: 

" Submit to the will of God ! If it is His will to 
call your mother to Him, doubtless it will be for her 
welfare in the other world," he added, in a still 
lower tone. "And for ours in this," he thought. 

The Lady of the Rupelmonde possessed seven fiefs 
besides the Barony of Ga"vres. The young woman 
listened to the voice of her life, the interests of her 
love speaking through the mouth of the handsome 
adventurer, a young miscreant who haunted the 
churches in search of a victim, a marriageable girl 
or good hard cash. The bishop blessed the waves 
and bade them be calm, but with little faith; he 
was thinking of his concubine who awaited his 
coming with a delicious repast, who at that moment, 
perhaps, was going to the bath, perfuming herself, 
arraying herself in velvet, or fastening the clasps 
of her necklaces and jewels. Far from thinking 
of the power of the Holy Church and giving com- 
fort to the Christians about him by exhorting them 
to trust in God, the wicked bishop intermingled 
worldly regrets and words of love with the sacred 
words of the breviary. The gleam that lighted 
up those pallid faces made visible their widely- 
differing expressions when the boat was lifted high 
in air by a wave, then hurled down to the bottom 
of the abyss, then shaken like a fragile leaf, the 
plaything of the north wind in the autumn, and its 
hull cracked and groaned and seemed on the point 
of going to pieces. Then there were frightful cries 



16 JESUS CHRIST IN FLANDERS 

followed by frightful pauses. The attitudes of the 
persons seated in the bow contrasted strangely with 
those of the rich and powerful passengers. The 
young mother strained her child to her breast each 
time that the waves threatened to engulf the fragile 
bark; but she trusted to the hope that the stranger's 
words had planted in her heart; each time she turned 
her eyes toward that man and derived from His face 
renewed faith, the steadfast faith of a weak woman, 
the faith of a mother. Living in the Divine Word, in 
the words of love let fall by Him, the simple creature 
awaited with confidence the execution of that species 
of promise, and hardly dreaded the peril. Glued to 
the gunwale of the boat, the soldier kept his eyes 
fastened upon that strange being, modelling the ex- 
pression of his own rough, bronzed face upon His 
impassive expression, by exerting his intelligence 
and his will, whose vast energies had been somewhat 
impaired during a passive, automatic sort of life; 
with a jealous determination to appear as calm and 
undisturbed as that man of higher courage, he ended 
by identifying himself, unknowingly, perhaps, with 
the secret principle of that inward power. There- 
upon his admiration became a sort of instinctive 
fanaticism, a love without bounds, a firm faith in 
that man, like the enthusiasm soldiers feel for their 
leader, when he is a man of powerful character, 
surrounded by the glamour of victories and the glori- 
ous prestige of genius. The poor old crone said in 
a low voice: 

"Ah! vile sinner that I am! have I suffered enough 



JESUS CHRIST IN FLANDERS 



Thereupon the stranger ivith the luminous visage 
spoke to that little world of sorrow : 

"Those who have faith shall be saved ! let them 
follow Me.'" 

He stood erect and walked with a Jinn step upon 
the waves. Instantly the young mother took her 
child in her arms and walked beside Him. 



JESUS CHRIST IN FLANDERS 17 

to atone for the pleasures of my youth ? Ah ! wretched 
woman, why did you lead the joyous life of a cour- 
tesan, why did you squander God's belongings with 
men of the Church, and the belongings of the poor 
with usurers and excisemen? Ah! I have sinned 
grievously. O my God ! my God ! let me end my 
hell on this abode of misery!" 

Or else: 

" Blessed Virgin, Mother of God, have pity on 
me!" 

"Console yourself, mother, the good Lord is no 
usurer. Although I may have killed right and left, 
good and bad alike, I'm not afraid of the resurrec- 
tion." 

"Ah! my fine officer, how lucky those fine ladies 
are to be with a bishop, a holy man!" rejoined the 
old woman; "they'll get absolution for their sins. 
Oh! if I could hear a priest's voice say: 'Your sins 
shall be forgiven,' I would believe it !" 

The stranger turned toward her, and his kindly 
glance made her tremble. 

" Have faith," he said, " and you shall be saved." 

" May God reward you, kind gentleman," she re- 
plied. " If you tell the truth, I will make a pilgrim- 
age, barefooted, to Notre-Dame de Lorette, for you 
and for myself." 

The two peasants, father and son, held their peace, 
resigned and submissive to the will of God, like men 
accustomed to follow instinctively, as animals do, 
the impulse imparted to their natures. Thus, on the 
one side, wealth, pride, learning, debauchery, crime, 



1 8 JESUS CHRIST IN FLANDERS 

an epitome of human society as it is constituted by 
the arts, reflection, education, the world and its laws; 
but also, on that side only, shrieks, terror, a multi- 
tude of varying feelings wrestling with horrible 
doubts; there, and there only, the agony of fear. 
Next, towering above those creatures, a powerful 
man, the master of the boat, doubting nothing, the 
leader, the fatalistic king, making himself his own 
providence by crying: "Blessed Bucket!" instead 
of " Blessed Virgin!" in short, defying the storm 
and struggling with the sea breast to breast. And 
at the other end of the boat the weak! the mother 
rocking on her breast a little child who smiled at the 
storm; a prostitute, once joyous and careless, now 
in the clutches of horrible remorse; a soldier riddled 
with wounds, with no other reward than his mutilated 
body for a life of unwearying devotion: he had hardly 
more than a crust of bread wet with tears, yet he 
laughed at everything and went his way without 
care, happy when he was drowning his glory in a 
pot of beer, or narrating his glorious exploits to chil- 
dren who followed him admiringly; gayly he en- 
trusted to God the care of his future; and lastly, 
two peasants, men of labor and fatigue, toil incar- 
nate, the labor by which the world lives. Those 
simple creatures cared nothing for thought and its 
treasures, but were ready to bury them in a belief, 
their faith being the more robust in that they had 
never discussed or analyzed it; virgin natures wherein 
the conscience had remained pure and the senti- 
ment powerful; remorse, misfortune, love, toil, had 



JESUS CHRIST IN FLANDERS 19 

exercised, purified, concentrated, redoubled their 
will, the only thing in man which resembles what 
scholars call a soul. 

When the boat, guided by the wonderful skill of 
the skipper, was almost in sight of Ostend and only 
fifty paces from the shore, she was blown off by a 
fierce squall and instantly foundered. 

Thereupon the stranger with the luminous visage 
spoke to that little world of sorrow: 

" Those who have faith shall be saved ! let them 
follow Me!" 

He stood erect and walked with a firm step upon 
the waves. Instantly the young mother took her 
child in her arms and walked beside Him. The 
soldier suddenly arose, saying in his artless lan- 
guage: 

"Ah! nom d'une pipe! I'll follow You to the 
devil." 

Whereupon, with no indication of surprise, he 
walked upon the sea. The old woman, believing in 
God's omnipotence, followed the man and walked 
upon the sea. The two peasants said to themselves: 

"As they walk upon the water, why should not 
we do as they do?" 

They rose and hurried after them, walking upon 
the sea. Thomas tried to imitate them; but as his 
faith wavered, he fell several times into the sea and 
rose again; at last, after three trials, he walked upon 
the sea. The bold skipper clung like a barnacle to 
a plank from his boat. The miser had faith and 
rose; but he tried to take his gold, and his gold 



20 JESUS CHRIST IN FLANDERS 

dragged him to the bottom of the sea. Making sport 
of the impostor and the imbeciles who listened to 
him, the professor, when he heard the stranger pro- 
pose to the passengers to walk upon the waves, be- 
gan to laugh and was swallowed up by the Ocean. 
The young woman was dragged down into the abyss 
by her lover. The bishop and the old lady went to 
the bottom, heavy with crimes, perhaps, but even 
heavier with incredulity, with confidence in false 
images; heavy with false devotion, but unburdened 
by alms-giving and true religious feeling. 

The little troop of true believers who trod with a 
firm tread and dryshod the plain of angry water heard 
the awful roaring of the gale about them. Enormous 
waves broke upon their path. An invincible force 
rent the Ocean. Through the spray the faithful 
espied in the distance, on the shore, a small, faint 
light twinkling in the windows of a fisherman's hut. 
As they walked courageously on toward that glimmer, 
each fancied that he heard his neighbor crying above 
the roaring of the waves: " Courage!" And yet not 
one of them said a word, for all were intent upon 
their danger. Thus they came safely to the shore. 
When they were all seated by the fisherman's fire, 
they looked in vain for their luminous Guide. From 
the summit of a rock against whose base the tempest 
tossed the skipper, clinging to his plank with the 
strength that sailors put forth in their combats with 
death, THE MAN went down, rescued the almost life- 
less castaway; then He said, stretching out a helping 
hand over his head: 



JESUS CHRIST IN FLANDERS 21 

" For this time 'tis well, but tempt not fate again; 
'twould be too evil an example." 

He took the sailor on His shoulders and bore him 
to the fisherman's hut. He knocked at the door, so 
that that humble place of refuge might be thrown 
open to the unfortunate man; then the Saviour dis- 
appeared. On that spot the convent of La Merci was 
built for shipwrecked sailors, and there for many 
years one might see the footprints that the feet of 
Jesus Christ had made, so it was said, upon the 
sand. In 1793, at the time of the French invasion of 
Belgium, the monks carried away that priceless relic, 
the evidence of the last visit Jesus made to earth. 

There it was that I, weary of life, found myself 
some time after the Revolution of 1830. If you had 
asked me the cause of my despair, it would have 
been well-nigh impossible for me to tell it to you, my 
mind had become so limp and flaccid. The springs 
of my intellect relaxed before the blasts of the west- 
erly wind. A black frost descended from the sky, 
and the dark clouds that passed over my head gave 
nature a sinister look; the vast expanse of the sea 
everything said to me: "Whether death comes to- 
day or to-morrow, must one not die? and then " 
I strayed about, therefore, thinking of an uncertain 
future, of my disappointed hopes. A prey to such 
depressing thoughts, I mechanically entered the 
church of the convent, whose gray towers loomed 
like phantoms through the mist from the sea. I 
gazed without enthusiasm at that forest of pillars 
whose leafy capitals sustain the slender arches a 



22 JESUS CHRIST IN FLANDERS 

graceful labyrinth. I walked heedlessly through the 
lateral naves which spread out before me like por- 
ticoes turning on their own axes. The uncertain 
light of an autumn day enabled me to see but dimly 
the carved keystones of the arches, the delicate 
tracery that outlined so clearly the angles of all the 
graceful rafters. The organs were silent. Only 
the sound of my footsteps awakened the solemn 
echoes hidden in the dark chapels. I seated myself 
by one of the four pillars which support the dome, 
near the choir. From that point my eyes embraced 
the whole interior of the structure, which I gazed 
upon without a thought for my surroundings. The 
mechanical movement of my eyes alone showed me 
the impressive labyrinth of all those pillars, the 
immense carved rose-windows, suspended like net- 
work, as if by miraculous means, above the lateral 
doors and the main portal, the galleries high in air 
where slender columns separated the windows, sur- 
mounted by arches, by trefoil or by flowers, a lovely 
filigree in stone. At the end of the choir a dome of 
glass sparkled as if it were constructed of precious 
stones set with great skill. To right and left, in con- 
trast with that dome, which was of white and colored 
glass in alternate rows, were the deep shadows of the 
two long naves, in whose depths could be seen indis- 
tinctly the shafts of a hundred gray columns. As I 
gazed at those marvellous arches, those arabesques, 
those garlands, those spirals, those Saracenic fan- 
tasies, inextricably interlaced with one another, and 
all lighted by a weird light, my perceptions became 






JESUS CHRIST IN FLANDERS 23 

confused. I found myself, as it were, on the di- 
viding line between illusion and reality, caught in 
the snares of optical delusions, and almost bewil- 
dered by the multitude of different points of view. 
Insensibly the carved stones became indistinct, I saw 
them only through a cloud composed of golden dust 
like that which darts about in the bands of light 
formed by a sunbeam in a room. In the midst of that 
vaporous atmosphere which made all outlines vague, 
the lace-work of the rose-windows suddenly shone 
forth resplendent. Each delicate nerve and line, 
each trivial detail, gleamed like burnished silver. 
The sun kindled fires in the panes of glass, whose 
rich colors sparkled gayly. The pillars swayed, 
their capitals moved gently to and fro. A caressing 
shudder shook the edifice and its friezes moved with 
cautious grace. Several large pillars went through 
divers solemn evolutions like the motions of a dow- 
ager who obligingly walks through a quadrille at the 
close of a ball. Some straight, slender columns be- 
gan to laugh and gambol, arrayed in their wreaths of 
trefoil. Pointed arches collided with the long, nar- 
row windows, which resembled the ladies of the 
Middle Ages who wore their family crests painted 
on their dresses of cloth of gold. The dance of 
those mitred arches with those coquettish windows 
was like a combat in the lists. Soon every stone in 
the church began to vibrate, but without changing 
its position. The organs spoke and filled my ears 
with divine melody, with which were mingled angels' 
voices, music of incredible sweetness, accompanied by 



24 JESUS CHRIST IN FLANDERS 

the deep bass of the bells whose ringing indicated that 
the two colossal towers were swaying on their solid 
foundations. That strange witches' Sabbath seemed 
to me the most natural thing on earth, for I am not 
easily surprised after having seen Charles X. over- 
thrown. I was myself swayed gently as if I were 
sitting in a swing, which gave me a sort of nervous 
pleasure, but it would be impossible for me to de- 
scribe it. And yet, in the midst of that scene of 
glowing excitement, the choir of the church seemed 
to me as cold as if winter were reigning there. I 
saw there a multitude of women dressed in white, 
motionless and silent. A number of censers exhaled 
a sweet perfume which penetrated my soul and re- 
joiced it. The tapers burned brightly. The read- 
ing-desk, gay as a minstrel in his cups, leaped like a 
Chinese hat. I discovered that the cathedral was 
whirling round and round so swiftly that everything 
remained in its place. The colossal Christ, from His 
place above the altar, smiled at me with a malicious 
kindliness that made me afraid, and I looked away 
from Him to gaze in admiration at a bluish vapor 
stealing among the pillars in the distance and im- 
parting an indescribable charm to them. Several 
fascinating female figures in the friezes moved their 
limbs. The cherubs who upheld great pillars flapped 
their wings. I felt myself uplifted by a divine power 
which plunged me into infinite joy, a sweet and lan- 
guorous ecstasy. I believe that I would have given 
my life to prolong the duration of that phantasma- 
goria, but suddenly a shrill voice cried in my ear: 



JESUS CHRIST IN FLANDERS 25 

" Wake up and follow me!" 

A withered old woman took my hand and made 
my nerves tingle with a horrible sensation of cold. 
Her bones were visible through the skin of her pallid, 
almost greenish-hued face. The cold little old crea- 
ture wore a black dress that dragged in the dust, 
and had at her neck something white which I dared 
not examine. Her staring eyes were fixed on the 
sky so that only the whites could be seen. She led 
me through the church, marking her path with the 
ashes that fell from her dress. As she walked, her 
bones rattled like a skeleton's. Step by step, as we 
proceeded, I heard behind me the tinkling of a little 
bell, whose jangling notes rang in my brain like 
those of a harmonica. 

" You must suffer! you must suffer!" it said to me. 

We left the church and passed through the vilest 
streets in the city; then she took me into a gloomy 
house, crying in a voice as harsh and discordant as 
that of a cracked bell : 

" Defend me! defend me!" 

We ascended a winding staircase. When she 
knocked at a door in the shadow, a man, dumb 
like the familiars of the Inquisition, opened it. We 
found ourselves in a room hung with ragged old 
tapestry, full of old linen, faded muslins, and gilded 
copper. 

" Here is everlasting wealth," she said. 

I shuddered with horror, when I saw plainly, 
by the light of a long candle and two tapers, that 
the woman must recently have come forth from the 



26 JESUS CHRIST IN FLANDERS 

cemetery. She had no hair. I tried to fly; she put 
out her skeleton arm and surrounded me with a circle 
of iron armed with spikes. At that movement a cry 
uttered by millions of voices, the cheer of the dead, 
echoed around us. 

" I intend to make you happy forever/' she said. 
" You are my son!" 

We were sitting by a fireplace in which the ashes 
were cold. The little old woman held my hand in 
such a strong grasp that I was compelled to remain 
there. I gazed fixedly at her and tried to divine the 
story of her life by scrutinizing the rags in which 
she crouched by my side. But was she alive? That 
was a veritable mystery. I saw clearly that she 
must once have been young and lovely, adorned 
with all the charms of simplicity, a veritable Grecian 
statue with the spotless brow. 

"Aha!" I said, "now I recognize you. Unhappy 
woman, why did you prostitute yourself to men? 
At the age when passions enslave, you became rich, 
you forgot your pure, sweet girlhood, your sublime 
self-sacrifice, your innocence, your fruitful faith, and 
you abdicated your original power, your intellectual 
supremacy, for the powers of the flesh. Abandoning 
your linen vestments, your couch of soft moss, your 
grottoes illumined by divine rays, you preferred to 
shine resplendent in diamonds, in luxury, in lust. 
Audacious, proud, desiring everything, obtaining 
everything, and overturning everything in your 
path, like a popular courtesan hurrying to her 
pleasures, you were as sanguinary as a queen 



JESUS CHRIST IN FLANDERS 27 

dazed by arbitrary power. Do you not remember 
that you were stupefied at times, then suddenly 
remarkably clear-sighted, after the pattern of Art 
coming forth from a debauch? Poet, painter, song- 
stress, fond of splendid ceremonials, you patronized 
the arts only from caprice, and so that you might 
sleep beneath magnificent hangings. Did you not 
one day, in your capricious insolence, you who 
should be chaste and modest, force everybody to 
bow down to your slipper, and fling it at the head 
of sovereigns who had earthly power, wealth, and 
talent? Forever insulting man, and taking pleasure 
in seeing how low human folly would stoop, some- 
times you would bid your lovers walk on all fours, 
give you their property, their treasures, their wives 
even, when they were of any value! Without mo- 
tive you have ruined millions of men, you have 
driven them like sand-clouds from West to East. 
You have descended from the lofty heights of 
thought to take your seat beside kings. Woman, 
instead of consoling men, you have tortured, afflicted 
them! You demanded blood, sure of obtaining it ! 
And yet you might have been content with a little 
flour, brought up as you were to eat cakes and put 
water in your wine. Original in everything, you 
once forbade your famished lovers to eat, and they 
did not eat. Why did you carry your extravagance 
so far as to wish for the impossible? Why, like a 
courtesan spoiled by her adorers, did you rave over 
idiotic trifles and refrain from undeceiving those who 
explained or justified all your errors? At last, you 



28 JESUS CHRIST IN FLANDERS 

came to the end of your passions. Terrible as the 
love of a woman of forty years, you roared aloud ! 
you sought to clasp the whole universe in a last 
embrace, and the universe that belonged to you 
escaped you. Then, after the young men, old men 
came to your feet, impotent creatures who made 
you hideous. Nevertheless, some men with the 
keen eye of the eagle said to you, with a glance: 
'You shall die without renown because you have 
deceived, because you have broken your promises 
as a girl. Instead of being an angel with peaceful 
brow, instead of sowing light and happiness along 
your pathway, you have been a Messalina, fond of 
the circus and of orgies, abusing your power! You 
can never again be a virgin, you must have a mas- 
ter. Your time has come. You already feel the 
hand of death. Your heirs think you rich, they 
will kill you and obtain nothing. Try at least to 
throw aside those clothes of yours, which are no 
longer in fashion, and become what you once were. 
But no! you have committed suicide!' Is not that 
your story?" I said to her in conclusion; "old, 
decayed, toothless, chilly, forgotten now, and unob- 
served as you pass? Why do you live? Why wear 
your soliciting garb which arouses no one's desire? 
Where is your fortune? why have you squandered 
it? Where are your treasures? What noble thing 
have you done?" 

At that question, the little old woman stood erect 
on her bones, threw off her rags, increased in stat- 
ure, emerged smiling and resplendent from her black 



JESUS CHRIST IN FLANDERS 29 

chrysalis. Then, like a new-born butterfly, that 
tropical creature came forth from her palms, ap- 
peared before me a fair, young girl, clad in a robe 
of spotless linen. Her golden hair fell over her 
shoulders, her eyes sparkled, a luminous cloud en- 
veloped her, a circle of gold fluttered about her head; 
she waved her hand toward space, brandishing a 
long sword of fire. 

"See and believe!" she said. 

Suddenly I saw in the distance tens of thousands 
of cathedrals like the one I had just left, but deco- 
rated with pictures and frescoes; I heard entrancing 
music. Myriads of men swarmed around those edi- 
fices like ants in their ant-hills; some eager to save 
books and copy manuscripts, others ministering to 
the poor, almost all studying. From the heart of 
those unnumbered multitudes arose colossal statues, 
reared by them. By the strange light cast by a 
luminary as great as the sun, I read on the pedestals 
of those statues: SCIENCE. HISTORY. LITERATURE. 

The light went out, I found myself once more 
alone with the young woman, who gradually resumed 
her lifeless envelope, her mortuary rags, and became 
old once more. Her familiar brought her a little 
coal-dust to renew the ashes in her foot-warmer, for 
the weather was cold; then he lighted for her 
for her who had had myriads of wax-candles in her 
palaces a little night-lamp, so that she could read 
her prayers during the night. 

" Faith is dead !" she said. 

Such was the critical situation in which I beheld 



30 JESUS CHRIST IN FLANDERS 

the most beautiful, the most immense, the truest, the 
most fruitful of all powers. 

"Wake up, monsieur, they're going to close 
the doors," said a hoarse voice. 

Turning my head, I saw the repulsive face of the 
dispenser of holy water; he had shaken me by 
the arm. I found the cathedral buried in darkness, 
like a man wrapped in a cloak. 

" To believe," I said to myself, "is to live! I 
have just seen the funeral procession of a monarchy; 
we must defend the CHURCH !" 

Paris, February 1831. 



MELMOTH CONVERTED 



TO MONSIEUR LE GENERAL BARON DE POMMEREUL 

In memory of the unbroken friendship which 
united our fathers, and which still subsists between 
their sons. 

DE BALZAC. 



There is one variety of the human race which 
civilization produces in the social regime, just as flor- 
ists create in the vegetable regime, by the hot-house 
method, a hybrid species which they are unable to 
reproduce either from seeds or by grafting. That 
variety is the cashier, a genuine anthropomorphic 
product, watered by religious ideas, nourished by 
the guillotine, pruned by vice, which grows to matu- 
rity in a third-floor apartment, between an estimable 
wife and tiresome children. The number of cashiers 
in Paris will always be a problem to the physiologist. 
Did anyone ever understand the terms of the propo- 
sition of which the known X is a cashier? To find 
a man who must be always in presence of wealth, 
like a cat in presence of a mouse in a cage? to find a 
man who has the faculty of sitting on a cane-seated 
chair in a box with a wire grating, where he has no 
more room to walk than a ship's officer in his state- 
room, for seven or eight hours a day during seven- 
eighths of the year? to find a man whose knees and 
spinal column will not become anchylosed at that 
trade? a man who is great enough to be small? a 
man who can acquire a distaste for money by dint of 
handling it? Apply for such a specimen to any 
religion, any code of morals, any college, any insti- 
tution on earth, and mention Paris, that city of 
temptations, that training-ground for hell, as the 
(35) 



36 MELMOTH CONVERTED 

place in which the cashier is to be planted ! Ah! 
well, the religions will all appear in single file, col- 
leges, institutions, moral codes, all human laws, 
great and small, will come to you as an intimate 
friend comes when you ask him for a thousand-franc 
note. They will put on a mournful expression, they 
will make faces, they will point to the guillotine, as 
your friend will point to the usurer's place of busi- 
ness, one of the hundred doorways to the alms-house. 
Nevertheless, moral nature has its whims, it ventures 
to produce honest men and honest cashiers now and 
then. And the pirates whom we dignify by the 
name of bankers, and who take a license at three 
thousand francs as a privateer takes his letters of 
marque, have such veneration for those rare products 
of the incubation of virtue, that they shut them up 
in cages in order to keep them safe, as governments 
keep curious animals. If the cashier has imagina- 
tion, if the cashier has passions, or if the most perfect 
of cashiers loves his wife and that wife is bored, or 
ambitious, or simply vain, the cashier goes to pieces. 
Search the annals of the counting-room: you will 
not find a single instance of the cashier attaining what 
is called a position. They go to the galleys, they go 
abroad, or they vegetate in a second-floor apartment 
on Rue Saint-Louis in the Marais. When Parisian 
cashiers have reflected seriously upon their intrinsic 
value, a cashier will be beyond price. It is certain 
that certain men can never be aught else than cash- 
iers, just as others are incorrigible rogues. Strange 
civilization! Society awards virtue an annuity of a 



MELMOTH CONVERTED 37 

hundred louis for its old age, lodgings on the second 
floor, plenty of bread, a new cravat or two, and an 
old wife encumbered by her children. As for vice, 
if it has a little insolence, if it can circumvent an 
article of the Code as cleverly as Turenne circum- 
vented Montecuculli, society legalizes its stolen mil- 
lions, bestows decorations upon it, stuffs it with 
honors, and overwhelms it with tokens of high con- 
sideration. Moreover, the government is in har- 
mony with this profoundly illogical society. The 
government levies upon youthful intellects, between 
eighteen years and twenty, a conscription of pre- 
cocious talents; it exhausts by premature toil the 
powerful brains which it convokes in order to sort 
them out on a board as gardeners do their seeds. It 
provides for that process sworn weighers of talents 
who test brains as gold is tested at the mint. Then 
out of the five hundred heads excited by hope, with 
which the most enlightened portion of the population 
annually provides it, it selects one-third, stows them 
away in great bags called its Schools, and shakes 
them about therefor three years. Although each of 
those grafts represents an enormous capital, it makes 
cashiers of them, so to speak; it appoints them en- 
gineers in ordinary; it employs them as captains of 
artillery; in a word, it assures them all the highest 
places in the subordinate grades. Then, when those 
picked men, fattened on mathematics and stuffed 
with science, have reached the age of fifty years, it 
provides them, by way of reward for their services, 
with the third-floor apartment, the wife burdened 



38 MELMOTH CONVERTED 

with children and all the joys of mediocrity. If, of 
that deluded multitude, five or six men of genius 
escape and climb to the social summits, is it not a 
miracle? 

The foregoing is an accurate balance-sheet of the 
account between talent and virtue on the one side 
and the government and society on the other, in an 
age which deems itself progressive. Without these 
preliminary observations, an episode of recent oc- 
currence in Paris would seem improbable, whereas, 
in the light of this summary, it may, perhaps, at- 
tract the attention of minds of sufficient acumen to 
have divined the real plague-spots of our civilization 
which, since 1815, has replaced honor as a principle 
of action by wealth. 

On a gloomy autumn day, about five in the after- 
noon, the cashier of one of the strongest banking- 
houses in Paris was still at work by the light of a 
lamp which had already been lighted for some time. 
In accordance with the usages and customs of the 
commercial world, the counting-room was situated in 
the darkest part of a narrow, low entresol. To reach 
it one must pass through a corridor lighted by inside 
windows and extending the length of the various offices 
whose ticketed doors resembled those of a bathing es- 
tablishment. At four o'clock, the concierge had phleg- 
matically announced, according to his orders: " The 
counting-room is closed." At this time, the offices 
were deserted, the mail despatched, the clerks had 
gone home, the wives of the partners were awaiting 
their lovers, the two bankers were dining with their 



MELMOTH CONVERTED 39 

mistresses. Everything was in order. The place 
where the strong-boxes were kept in an iron safe 
was behind the grated box of the cashier, who was 
engaged, no doubt, in balancing his cash. The open 
wicket permitted one to see a closet of hammered 
iron, which, thanks to the discoveries of modern 
locksmithing, was so heavy that burglars could not 
have carried it away. The door opened only at the 
bidding of the person who could write the password, 
the secret of which is faithfully kept by the letters 
of the lock beyond the reach of corruption, a beau- 
tiful realization of the Open, Sesame! of the Thou- 
sand and One Nights. But that was not all. The 
lock would strike a crushing blow at the face of the 
man who, having discovered the password, was un- 
acquainted with the last secret, the ultima ratio of 
the dragon of the mechanism. The door of the room, 
the walls of the room, the shutters at the windows 
of the room, the whole room, in short, was sheathed 
with sheet-iron plates a third of an inch thick, dis- 
guised by a thin veneer of wainscoting. The shut- 
ters were closed, the door was closed. If ever a 
man might believe that he was absolutely alone and 
sheltered from all eyes, that man was the cashier of 
the house of Nucingen and Company, Rue Saint- 
Lazare. The most profound silence reigned in that 
iron cave. The dying fire in the stove gave forth the 
sickening warmth which produces upon the brain 
the clammy sensation and queasy uneasiness pecul- 
iar to the day after a debauch. The stove tends 
to produce sleep, it stupefies and helps materially to 



4O MELMOTH CONVERTED 

banish the wits of concierges and clerks. A room 
with a stove is a mattress in which man's energy 
disappears, his nerves relax, and his will becomes 
null. The department offices are the great nursery 
of the mediocrities which governments require for 
the maintenance of the feudal authority of money, 
upon which the present social fabric rests. See 
The Civil Service. The mephitic heat produced by 
the herding of men together in those offices is not one 
of the least important causes of the progressive degen- 
eration of intellects; the brain from which the most 
nitrogen is set free asphyxiates the others in the end. 
The cashier was a man of about forty years, 
whose bald head gleamed in the rays of the Carcel 
lamp that stood on his table. The light shone upon 
the white hairs interspersed with black that formed 
a fringe around his head, to which the rounded out- 
lines of his face gave the appearance of a ball. His 
complexion was brick red. His blue eyes were sur- 
rounded by wrinkles. He had the plump hand of 
the corpulent man. His blue coat, slightly worn in 
places, and the folds of his shiny trousers offered to 
the eye that appearance of decay which long use 
imparts, against which the brush struggles in vain, 
and which gives superficial persons an exalted idea 
of the economical habits and unswerving probity of 
a man who is enough of a philosopher or enough 
of an aristocrat to wear old clothes. But it is no 
rare thing to find people who will haggle over trifles, 
easily imposed upon, extravagant or incapable in 
the momentous affairs of life. 



MELMOTH CONVERTED 41 

The cashier's buttonhole was adorned with the 
ribbon of the Legion of Honor, for he had commanded 
a company in the dragoons, under the Emperor. Mon- 
sieur de Nucingen, who was an army contractor 
before becoming a banker, had been so situated as 
to discover his future cashier's delicacy of feeling, 
having met him in an exalted position from which 
misfortune had dislodged him; and he testified his 
regard by paying him a salary of five hundred francs 
per month. This soldier had been a cashier since 
1813, when he was cured of a wound received at the 
battle of Studzianka, during the retreat from Moscow, 
after he had languished six months at Strasburg, 
whither a number of the officers of higher rank had 
been carried, by order of the Emperor, to receive 
special attention. The ex-dragoon, Castanier by 
name, had the brevet rank of colonel and a retiring 
pension of twenty-four hundred francs. 

Castanier, in whom the cashier had in ten years 
vanquished the military man, possessed the banker's 
confidence to such an extent that he also superin- 
tended the clerks in the private office behind his 
counting-room, to which the baron came down from 
his apartments by a secret staircase. There im- 
portant affairs were decided; there was the sieve 
in which propositions were sifted, the parlor in 
which the plans were scrutinized; thence letters of 
credit issued; lastly, there were the ledger and the 
journal wherein the work of the other offices was 
summarized. After closing the door at the foot of 
the staircase leading to the State office, where the 



42 MELMOTH CONVERTED 

two bankers were usually to be found, on the first 
floor of their hotel, Castanier had returned to his 
seat and had glanced for a moment at several let- 
ters of credit drawn on the house of Watschildine 
at London. Then he had taken his pen and had 
forged, at the bottom of each of them, the signa- 
ture Nudngen. Just as he was examining those 
false signatures to see which of them all was the 
most perfect imitation, he raised his head as if he 
had been stung by a gnat, obeying a presentiment 
which cried out in his heart: " You are not alone!" 
and the forger saw behind the grating, at the wicket 
of his counting-room, a man whose breathing was 
inaudible, who seemed to him not to breathe at all. 
He had evidently entered by the door leading into 
the corridor, which Castanier saw was wide open. 
The ex-soldier experienced for the first time in his 
life a sensation of fear which made him sit with 
gaping mouth and bewildered eyes, staring at the 
intruder, whose appearance was, in truth, horrify- 
ing enough to stand in no need of the mysterious 
circumstances attending his entrance. The oblong 
shape of the stranger's face, the bulging outline of 
his forehead, the acid tinge of his complexion, indi- 
cated an Englishman, no less than the cut of his 
clothes. The man fairly smelt of the Englishman. 
Seeing his tightly-buttoned coat, his flowing cravat 
colliding with a rumpled shirt-frill, its whiteness in- 
tensifying the fixed, livid hue of an impassive face, 
whose cold, red lips seemed made to suck the blood 
from dead bodies, one could imagine the black gaiters 



MELMOTH CONVERTED 43 

buttoned above the knee, and the rest of the semi- 
Puritan costume of a wealthy Englishman out for a 
walk. The flash emitted by the stranger's eyes 
was insupportable and caused a painful impression 
which was heightened by the rigidity of his features. 
Thin and gaunt, the man seemed to have within him 
a devouring principle which it was impossible for him 
to satisfy. He must have digested his food so rapidly 
that he could eat incessantly, without causing the 
slightest trace of a flush ever to appear on his 
cheeks. He could swallow a cask of the Tokay 
wine known as vin de succession, and his piercing 
glance, which read men's minds, would not waver 
for an instant, nor his pitiless logic, which seemed 
always to go to the very root of things. There was 
in him something of the fierce and tranquil majesty 
of the tiger. 

"Monsieur, I have just received this bill of ex- 
change," he said to Castanier, in a voice which put 
itself in communication with the cashier's nerves 
and assailed them all with a violence comparable to 
that of an electric discharge. 

" The counting-room is closed," replied Castanier. 

" It is open," said the Englishman, pointing to the 
safe. " To-morrow will be Sunday, and I cannot 
wait. The amount is five hundred thousand francs, 
you have it in the safe, and I owe it." 

" But how did you manage to get in?" 

The Englishman smiled, and his smile terrified 
Castanier. Never was a fuller or more peremptory 
response than the imperious, disdainful curl of the 



44 MELMOTH CONVERTED 

stranger's lip. Castanier turned, seized fifty pack- 
ages of bank-notes each containing ten thousand 
francs, and, as he passed them to the stranger who 
had tossed him a bill of exchange signed by Baron 
de Nucingen, he was attacked by a sort of convul- 
sive trembling, at sight of the red gleam that issued 
from that man's eyes and shone upon the forged 
signature of the letter of credit. 

"You haven't signed a receipt," stammered 
Castanier, returning the bill. 

" Pass me your pen," replied the Englishman. 

Castanier handed him the pen he had used for his 
forgeries. The stranger signed JOHN MELMOTH, 
then returned the pen and paper to the cashier. 
While Castanier was looking at the stranger's writ- 
ing, which ran from right to left in the oriental 
fashion, Melmoth disappeared, and made so little 
noise that, when the cashier raised his head and saw 
that he was no longer there, he uttered a sharp cry, 
conscious of a pang like those which our imagination 
attributes to the effects produced by poison. The 
pen Melmoth had used caused a burning, disturbing 
sensation in his vitals, like that produced by an 
emetic. As it seemed impossible to Castanier that 
the Englishman had divined his crime, he attributed 
that internal suffering to the palpitation which, ac- 
cording to received ideas, follows a mauvais coup the 
moment after it is committed. 

" Damnation! what a fool I am! God help me, 
for if that animal had applied to these gentlemen 
to-morrow, my goose would have been cooked !" said 



MELMOTH CONVERTED 45 

Castanier to himself, as he threw the forged letters 
he did not propose to use into the stove, where they 
were consumed. 

He placed a seal on the one he had selected for 
use, took from the safe five hundred thousand francs 
in bills and bank-notes, locked it, put everything in 
order, took his hat and umbrella, extinguished the 
lamp after lighting his candlestick, and went tran- 
quilly, according to his custom when the baron was 
absent, to hand one of the two keys of the safe to 
Madame de Nucingen. 

"You are very fortunate, Monsieur Castanier," 
said the banker's wife, when he entered her apart- 
ments, " we have a holiday on Monday; you can go 
into the country, to Soizy." 

" Will you be kind enough, madame, to say to 
Nucingen that the bill of exchange from Watschil- 
dine, which was delayed, has been presented. The 
five hundred thousand francs are paid. So I shall 
not return until Tuesday, about noon." 

"Adieu, monsieur; a pleasant time to you." 

" The same to you, madame," replied the old 
dragoon as he went out, glancing, as he spoke, at a 
young man then much in vogue, named Rastignac, 
who was supposed to be Madame de Nucingen's 
lover. 

" Madame," said the young man, "that stout old 
party looks to me as if he proposed to play some 
trick on you." 

" Nonsense! it's impossible, he's too big a fool." 

" Piquoizeau," said the cashier, going into the 



46 MELMOTH CONVERTED 

porter's lodge, " why do you let anybody come up 
to the counting-room after four o'clock?" 

"Ever since four o'clock," said the concierge, 
" I've been smoking my pipe on the doorstep, and 
not a soul has gone into the offices. No one has 
even left but these gentlemen " 

"Are you sure of what you say?" 

" Sure as I am of my own honor. Just about four, 
Monsieur Werbrust's friend came, a young man from 
Messieurs Du Tillet and Company, Rue Joubert." 

"All right!" said Castanier, hastily leaving the 
lodge. 

The nauseating heat which his pen had communi- 
cated to him assumed greater intensity. 

" Ten thousand devils!" he thought, as he hurried 
along Boulevard de Gand, " have I made my arrange- 
ments wisely? Let us see! Two days to myself, 
Sunday and Monday, then a day of uncertainty be- 
fore they begin to look for me that gives me three 
days and four nights. I have two passports and two 
distinct disguises; isn't that enough to throw the 
cleverest detectives off the scent? Tuesday morn- 
ing, I will pick up a million in London, before they 
have begun to have a suspicion of me here. I leave 
my debts for the benefit of my creditors, who will 
put a P. over them, and for the rest of my days I will 
live happily in Italy, under the name of Comte Fer- 
raro, that poor colonel whom I alone was with when 
he died in the swamps of Zembin, and whose skin I 
will put on. Ten thousand devils! this woman that 
I am going to take with me may lead to my being 



MELMOTH CONVERTED 47 

recognized. An old campaigner like me tied to a 
petticoat, bewitched by a woman! why should I take 
her? I must leave her. Yes, I shall have the cour- 
age to do it. But I know myself, I shall be just fool 
enough to come back to her. However, no one 
knows Aquilina. Shall I take her? or shall I not 
take her?" 

" You will not take her!" said a voice that stirred 
his entrails. 

Castanier turned abruptly and saw the English- 
man. 

" So the devil is taking a hand in it!" exclaimed 
the cashier aloud. 

Melmoth had already passed his victim. Although 
Castanier's first impulse was to fasten a quarrel 
upon a man who could read his thoughts so readily, 
he was tossed about by so many contrary sentiments 
that the result was a sort of temporary inertness; so 
he walked on as before, and relapsed into the fever 
of thought natural to a man excited by passion to 
the point of committing a crime, but lacking the 
strength to carry its burden without the most cruel 
agitation. And so, although determined to gather 
the fruit of a crime half consummated, Castanier 
still hesitated to carry out his undertaking, like most 
men of mixed character in whom there is as much 
strength as weakness, and who may resolve to re- 
main pure as well as to become criminal, according 
to the effect of the most trivial circumstances. In 
the motley collection of men enlisted by Napoleon 
there were many who, like Castanier, possessed the 



48 MELMOTH CONVERTED 

purely physical courage of the battle-field, but lacked 
the moral courage which makes a man as great in 
crime as he might be in virtue. The letter of credit 
was so worded, that on his arrival in London he 
could draw twenty-five thousand pounds sterling 
from Watschildine, the correspondent of the house 
of Nucingen, who was already advised by himself of 
its speedy presentation. His passage was engaged 
by an agent whom he had selected at random in 
London, under the name of Comte Ferraro, on a 
vessel which was to take a rich English family from 
Portsmouth to Italy. Every contingency, however 
trifling, had been provided for. He had laid his plans 
so that they would look for him in Belgium and in 
Switzerland while he was at sea. Then, when 
Nucingen might believe that he was fairly on his 
track, he hoped to have reached Naples, where he 
intended to live under a false name, by favor of a 
disguise so complete that he had determined to 
change his whole face by imitating the ravages of 
small-pox with the aid of an acid. 

Despite all those precautions, which seemed cer- 
tain to assure him impunity, his conscience tormented 
him: he was afraid. The quiet, peaceful life he had 
led so long had purified his military morals. He was 
still upright, he did not soil his hands without regret. 
So he listened for the last time to the arguments of 
the honest nature which was struggling within him. 

"Bah!" he said to himself at the corner of the 
boulevard and Rue Montmartre, " a cab will take me 
to Versailles to-night after the play. A post-chaise 



MELMOTH CONVERTED 49 

awaits me there at my old quartermaster's, who 
would keep my secret in the face of a dozen soldiers 
all ready to shoot him if he refused to answer. So 
I can't see that there's one chance against me. I 
will take my little Naqui and go!" 

"You will not go!" said the Englishman, whose 
peculiar voice sent all the cashier's blood rushing to 
his heart. 

Melmoth entered a tilbury that was waiting for 
him, and was driven away so swiftly, that Castanier 
saw his mysterious enemy a hundred yards away, 
driving up Boulevard Montmartre, at a fast trot, 
before it even occurred to him to stop him. 

"Upon my word, this is supernatural!" he said 
to himself. " If I were idiotic enough to believe in 
God, I should think he had put Saint-Michel on my 
heels. Would the devil and the police give me a 
chance to get hold of him in time? Did anyone 
ever see such a thing! Nonsense! this is all folly." 

Castanier turned into Rue du Faubourg-Mont- 
martre, and slackened his pace as he neared Rue 
Richer. On that street, in a new house, on the 
second floor of an ell overlooking a garden, lived a 
girl known in the quarter by the name of Madame 
de la Garde, who was the innocent cause of the 
crime committed by Castanier. To explain that 
fact and to complete the history of the crisis under 
which the cashier succumbed, it is necessary to re- 
late succinctly some previous episodes in her life. 

Madame de la Garde, who concealed her real 
name from everybody, Castanier included, claimed 
4 



50 MELMOTH CONVERTED 

to be a Piedmontese. She was one of those young 
women who, it may be by extreme destitution, by 
lack of work or by dread of death, frequently, too, 
by the treachery of a first lover, are driven to adopt 
a trade which the majority of them practise with 
loathing, many with indifference, and some in obe- 
dience to the laws of their nature. Just as she was 
on the point of hurling herself into the abyss of 
Parisian prostitution, at the age of sixteen, the girl 
in question, lovely and pure as a Madonna, fell in 
with Castanier. The ex-dragoon, being too un- 
polished to succeed in society and tired of parading 
the boulevards every evening in search of amours 
to be bought, had long wished to reduce his irregu- 
lar morals to something like order. Struck by the 
beauty of the poor child whom chance threw into 
his arms, he determined to rescue her from vice for 
his own advantage, obeying a thought no less selfish 
than beneficent, as are many of the thoughts of the 
best of men. The natural impulse is often good, 
society mingles its bad with it, the result being cer- 
tain mixed impulses which the judge should treat 
with indulgence. Castanier had just enough wit to 
be cunning when his selfish interests were at stake. 
He determined to establish his philanthropy on a 
sure footing, so first of all he made the girl his mis- 
tress. 

"Aha!" he said to himself in his military jargon, 
"an old wolf like me mustn't allow himself to be 
cooked by a lamb. Before you go to housekeeping, 
Papa Castanier, just reconnoitre the girl's moral 



MELMOTH CONVERTED 51 

character a bit and find out- if she's capable of at- 
tachment." 

During the first year of that union, which, al- 
though illicit, placed her in the least reprehensible 
of all the positions which society censures, the 
Piedmontese adopted for a nom de guerre Aquilina, 
the name of one of the characters in Venice Pre- 
served, an English tragedy which she had read by 
chance. She fancied that she resembled that cour- 
tesan, it may be in the precocious sentiments that 
she felt in her heart, or in her face, or in the general 
effect of her person. When Castanier saw that she 
was leading the most orderly and most virtuous life 
possible for a woman whose lot is cast outside of 
social laws and proprieties, he manifested a wish to 
live with her as her husband. She thereupon be- 
came Madame de la Garde, in order to enjoy the 
conditions attending a lawful marriage, so far as 
Parisian customs permit. In truth, the fixed idea 
of many of those poor girls consists in a longing to 
be received as honest bourgeoises, foolishly faithful 
to their husbands; capable of becoming excellent 
mothers of families, of keeping their accounts and 
mending the household linen. That longing is born 
of such a praiseworthy sentiment that society 
should take it into consideration. But society will 
certainly be incorrigible, and will continue to look 
upon the married woman as a corvette whose flag 
and papers entitle her to go her way, while the kept 
woman is the pirate who is captured for lack of the 
proper papers. On the day when Madame de la 



52 MELMOTH CONVERTED 

Garde expressed a wish to sign her name " Madame 
Castanier," the cashier lost his temper. 

" Then you don't love me well enough to marry 
me?" she said. 

Castanier did not reply, but seemed absorbed in 
thought. The poor girl bowed to the inevitable. 
The ex-dragoon was in despair. Naqui was touched 
by his despair, she would have liked to allay it; but, 
in order to allay despair, one must know its cause. 
On the day when Naqui attempted to learn that 
secret, without asking questions, by the way, 
the cashier piteously divulged the existence of a 
certain Madame Castanier, a legitimate spouse, a 
thousand times accursed, who lived in obscurity at 
Strasburg, on a small property, and to whom he 
wrote twice a year, maintaining such absolute 
secrecy concerning her that no one knew that he 
was married. Why that reticence? Although the 
explanation is known to many military men who 
may have found themselves in the same plight, 
perhaps it will be well to give it. The genuine 
troupier, if we may be allowed to employ the word 
used in the army to denote soldiers who are destined 
to die captains, that serf attached to the freehold 
of a regiment, is a creature essentially ingenuous, a 
Castanier sacrificed in advance to the trickery of 
mothers in garrison towns, who are burdened with 
daughters hard to marry. So it was, that, at Nancy, 
during one of those brief periods when the imperial 
armies tarried in France, Castanier had the misfor- 
tune to attract the attention of a young woman with 



MELMOTH CONVERTED 53 

whom he had danced at one of those functions called 
in the provinces redoutes, which are frequently prof- 
fered by the officers of the garrison to the town, and 
vice versa. The good-natured captain at once became 
the object of one of those campaigns of seduction for 
which mothers find confederates in the human heart, 
by working upon all its sensibilities, and among their 
friends, who conspire with them. Like people of 
but one idea, such mothers make everything sub- 
ordinate to their great scheme, which becomes an 
elaborately constructed work like the shell of sand in 
which the ant-eater lies in wait. Perhaps no one 
will ever enter that carefully-constructed labyrinth, 
perhaps the ant-eater will die of hunger and thirst. 
But if any hare-brained creature does enter, he will 
remain. The secret calculations of avarice which 
every man makes when he marries, hope, human 
vanity, all the wires by which a captain is moved, 
were attacked in Castanier. To his undoing he had 
praised the daughter to the mother on bringing her 
back after a waltz; then they had a little chat, which 
was followed by a most natural invitation to call. 
Once he was enticed to the house, the dragoon was 
dazzled by the amiability of a family in which wealth 
seemed to be concealed beneath affected niggardli- 
ness. He was made the object of adroit flattery, and 
everyone praised the various treasures that were 
to be found in that house. A dinner, served on 
silver plate conveniently lent by an uncle, the at- 
tentions of an only daughter, the gossip of the town, 
a rich sub-lieutenant who pretended to be trying to 



54 MELMOTH CONVERTED 

cut the grass from under his feet in short, the 
thousand and one snares of provincial ant-eaters 
were so cunningly laid that Castanier said to himself 
five years later: 

" I don't know yet how it was done!" 
The dragoon received a dowry of fifteen thousand 
francs and a young lady, luckily barren, whom two 
years of married life transformed into the ugliest and 
consequently the most ill-natured woman on earth. 
Her complexion, kept white by a strict diet, became 
pimply; her face, whose vivid coloring indicated the 
most seductive virtue, was covered with blotches; 
her figure, which seemed straight, had a twist in it; 
the angel was a morose, suspicious creature who 
drove Castanier mad; then the fortune took wings. 
The dragoon, no longer recognizing the woman he 
had married, consigned her to a small estate at 
Strasburg, pending the time when it should please 
God to embellish paradise with her. She was one 
of those virtuous wives who, for lack of opportunity 
to do anything else, drive the angels to despair with 
their lamentations, pray to God in a way to weary 
Him if He listens, and in the evening, while playing 
boston with their neighbors, demurely tell stories 
about their husbands that are worse than hanging- 
matter. 

When Aquilina was informed of Castanier's mis- 
fortunes, she became sincerely attached to him, and 
made him so happy by the enjoyments she procured 
for him, her woman's genius enabling her to vary 
them constantly, while lavishing them upon him 



MELMOTH CONVERTED 55 

without stint, that she unwittingly caused the 
cashier's ruin. Like many women whose destiny 
seems to decree that they shall go down to the very 
deepest depths of love, Madame de la Garde was 
disinterested. She asked for neither gold nor jewels, 
she never thought of the future, lived in the present 
and especially in pleasure. The rich ornaments, the 
dresses, the carriages, so ardently craved by women 
of her sort, she accepted only as one more harmo- 
nious feature in the tableau of life. She did not 
want them from vanity or for show, but in order to 
be more comfortable. And no one could do without 
things of that sort more easily than she. When a 
generous man, as almost all soldiers are, falls in 
with a woman of that temper, he feels a sort of 
rage in his heart when he finds himself unable to do 
his share in the mutual exchange of life. He feels 
that he is capable of stopping a diligence in order to 
obtain money, if he has not enough for his lavish 
expenditures. Man is made in that way. He some- 
times commits a crime in order to remain a grand 
and noble figure in the eyes of a woman or of a 
special audience. A lover resembles a gambler, who 
would consider himself dishonored if he failed to 
repay what he borrows from the waiter, and who 
commits horrible crimes, despoils his wife and chil- 
dren, robs and murders, in order to arrive with full 
pockets and with his honor untarnished in the eyes 
of those who frequent the fatal place. So it was 
with Castanier. At first, he installed Aquilina in a 
modest fourth-floor apartment, and gave her only 



56 MELMOTH CONVERTED 

the simplest furniture. But when he discovered the 
girl's manifold beauties and noble qualities, receiv- 
ing at her hands pleasure undreamed of, which no 
words can describe, he fairly doted on her and de- 
termined to adorn his idol. Aquilina's dress con- 
trasted so comically with her wretched lodgings, 
that, for both their sakes, it was necessary to make 
a change. That change swept away almost all of 
Castanier's savings, for he furnished his semi-con- 
jugal apartment with the magnificence peculiar to 
the kept mistress. A pretty woman wants nothing 
ugly about her. The one thing that .distinguishes 
her from all other women is the sentiment of homo- 
geneousness, one of the least noticed needs of our 
nature, which leads old maids to surround them- 
selves with none but old things. For that reason, 
therefore, the fair Piedmontese must have the new- 
est, the most stylish objects, the daintiest wares 
that the shops afforded, fine hangings, silks and 
jewels, light and fragile furniture, lovely porcelains. 
She asked for nothing. But, when she was called 
upon to choose, when Castanier said to her: " Which 
do you like?" she would say: "Why, that is the 
nicest!" The love that economizes is never true 
love, so Castanier took the best that there was. 
When the scale of proportion was once admitted, 
everything in the household must necessarily be in 
harmony. There were the linen, the silverware, 
and the thousand and one accessories of a well- 
ordered establishment, the kitchen outfit, the glass, 
the devil ! Although Castanier intended, to use a 



MELMOTH CONVERTED 57 

familiar expression, to do things simply, his debts 
steadily increased. One thing necessitated another. 
A clock required two candelabra. The carved man- 
telpiece demanded a fireplace. The draperies and 
hangings were too fresh and new to allow them to 
be blackened by the smoke, so they must have 
some of the fashionable chimneys, recently invented 
by gentlemen skilful in the art of composing pros- 
pectuses, which claimed to provide an invincible 
guaranty against smoke. And then Aquilina found 
it so pleasant to run about barefooted on her cham- 
ber carpet, that Castanier spread carpets every- 
where to frolic with Naqui; and, lastly, he built her 
a bath-room, always for her greater comfort. The 
shopkeepers, the workmen, the manufacturers of 
Paris have a most extraordinary talent for increasing 
the size of the hole a man makes in his purse; when 
you consult them, they never know the price of 
anything, and the frenzy of desire never brooks 
delay; thus they procure orders in the shadow of an 
approximate estimate, then they delay sending in 
their bills, and lead the customer on into the vortex 
of house-furnishing. Everything is delightful, fas- 
cinating, and everyone is satisfied. A few months 
later, these obliging merchants reappear, metamor- 
phosed into statements of account of distressing 
urgency; they have a pressing need of money, pay- 
ments to be made at once, they even claim to be on 
the verge of bankruptcy, they weep and they move 
you to pity! Thereupon the crater opens, vomiting 
forth a column of figures marching by fours, when 



58 MELMOTH CONVERTED 

they should march innocently three by three. Be- 
fore Castanier knew the amount of his expenditures, 
he had adopted the habit of providing his mistress 
with a coupe whenever she went out, instead of 
allowing her to ride in a cab. Castanier was a 
gourmand, he had an excellent cook; and Aquilina, 
to give him pleasure, regaled him with early vege- 
tables, gastronomic rarities, and choice wines which 
she purchased herself. But, as she had nothing of 
her own, her gifts, although they were of priceless 
value to him because of the thoughtful affection and 
charming delicacy that dictated them, were a con- 
stant drain upon Castanier 's purse, for he did not 
choose that his Naqui should be without money, 
and she always was without money! Thus the table 
was a source of large expenditure, relatively to the 
cashier's income. The ex-dragoon was obliged to 
resort to commercial artifices to procure money, for 
it was impossible for him to renounce his pleasures. 
His love for the woman precluded him from opposing 
the whims of the mistress. He was one of those 
men who, whether from self-love or from weakness, 
can refuse a woman nothing, and who have such a 
powerful feeling of false shame at the thought of 
saying: " I cannot my means will not allow me I 
have no money," that they ruin themselves. So 
that, when the day came that Castanier found him- 
self on the brink of a precipice, and realized that, in 
order to save himself, he must leave Aquilina and 
betake himself to a bread-and-water diet, to the 
end that he might pay his debts, he had become so 



MELMOTH CONVERTED 59 

accustomed to that woman and that life, that he 
postponed his plans of reform every morning. First 
of all, under the stress of circumstances, he bor- 
rowed. His position and his antecedents had won 
for him a reputation for trustworthiness of which 
he took advantage to lay out a system of borrowing 
in proportion to his needs. Then, to disguise the 
amount to which his debts rapidly climbed, he had 
recourse to what are known in the business world 
as circulations. These are notes which represent 
no actual consideration in merchandise or money, 
and which the first endorser pays for the obliging 
maker a species of forgery, tolerated because it is 
impossible to prove, and because, furthermore, this 
ingenious fraud becomes real only in case of non- 
payment. Finally, when Castanier saw that it was 
impossible for him to continue his financial ma- 
noeuvres, both because of the rapid increase of the 
capital and of the enormous interest he had to pay, 
he was obliged to face the thought of insolvency. 
With disgrace staring him in the face, Castanier 
preferred fraudulent insolvency to simple insolvency, 
crime to misdemeanor. He determined to discount 
the confidence which he owed to his previous prob- 
ity, and to increase the number of his creditors by 
borrowing, after the fashion of the famous cashier 
of the royal Treasury, a sufficient sum to enable 
him to live happily in a foreign country for the 
balance of his days. And he had taken measures 
to that end, as we have seen. Aquilina knew noth- 
ing of the wearisomeness of that life, she simply 



60 MELMOTH CONVERTED 

enjoyed it as many women do, without asking where 
the money came from, any more than certain people 
ask how the wheat grows when they eat their fine 
white bread; whereas the painstaking care and 
the disappointments of the farmer stand behind the 
baker's oven, just as crushing anxiety and the most 
exacting toil lurk unseen beneath the exterior splen- 
dor of most Parisian households. 

At the moment that Castanier was undergoing the 
tortures of uncertainty, meditating a step that would 
change his whole life, Aquilina, buried in a capacious 
armchair in front of the fire, was calmly awaiting 
him, in the company of her maid. Like all maids in 
the service of ladies of that sort, Jenny had become 
her confidante, after she had discovered how unas- 
sailable was the empire her mistress had obtained 
over Castanier. 

"What are we going to do to-night? Leon ab- 
solutely insists upon coming," said Madame de la 
Garde, running her eyes over a passionate letter 
written upon paper of a grayish tinge. 

" Here's monsieur!" said Jenny. 

Castanier entered. Aquilina, with perfect uncon- 
cern, crumpled the letter, took it in her tongs and 
burned it. 

"So that's what you do with your love-letters?" 
said Castanier. 

"Why, yes, of course," replied Aquilina; "isn't 
that the best way to make sure they're not found? 
And then, should not fire go to fire, as water goes to 
the river?" 



MELMOTH CONVERTED 6l 

" You say that, Naqui, as if it were a real love- 
letter." 

" Well, am I not lovely enough to receive them?" 
she said, offering Castanier her forehead with a sort 
of negligent air that would have told a man less 
blinded than he that she was performing a conjugal 
duty, so to speak, in giving him pleasure; but Cas- 
tanier had reached that degree of passion, due to 
habit, that made it impossible for him to notice any- 
thing. 

" I have a box for the Gymnase this evening," he 
said; " let us dine early so as not to dine post- 
haste." 

"Go with Jenny. I am tired of the theatre. I 
don't know what's the matter with me to-night, but 
I prefer to sit by the fire." 

"Come all the same, Naqui; 1 haven't long to 
bore you with my attentions. Yes, Quiqui, I am 
going away to-night and shall not return for some 
time. I leave you mistress of everything here. 
Will you keep your heart for me?" 

" Neither my heart nor anything else. But, when 
you come back, Naqui will still be Naqui to you." 

" That's frank, upon my word. So you won't go 
with me?" 

"No." 

" Why not?" 

" Why, can I leave the lover who writes me such 
sweet notes as that?" she said, with a smile, point- 
ing with a half-mocking gesture to the charred 
paper. 



62 MELMOTH CONVERTED 

"Can it be true?" queried Castanier. "Have 
you a lover?" 

"What!" rejoined Aquilina, "have you never 
considered yourself seriously, my dear? In the first 
place, you're fifty years old ! Then you have a face 
to put on a fruit-woman's stand, for no one would 
ever contradict her when she tried to sell it for a 
pumpkin. When you come upstairs, you puff like 
a porpoise. Your paunch quivers like a diamond on 
a woman's head ! No matter if you did serve in the 
dragoons, you're a very ugly old fellow! Gad ! I 
don't advise you, if you want to retain my esteem, 
to add to the qualities I have mentioned the absurd 
folly of thinking that such a girl as I am can get 
along without tempering your asthmatic love with 
the flowers of some pretty youth " 

" Of course you are joking, Aquilina?" 

" Well, aren't you joking, too? Do you take me 
for a fool that you talk about going away? 'I am 
going away this evening,' " she said, mimicking 
him. " You great drone, would you talk like that if 
you were going to leave your Naqui? You would 
cry like the calf that you are!" 

" But, if I do go, will you go with me?" he asked. 

" Tell me first if this talk about a journey isn't a 
poor joke?" 

" No; seriously, I am going away." 

"Very well, then, seriously, I will stay here. A 
pleasant journey, my boy! I'll wait for you. I 
would rather leave life than leave my dear little 
Paris." 



MELMOTH CONVERTED 63 

" You won't come to Italy, to Naples, to lead a 
pleasant, lazy, luxurious life, with your old man who 
puffs like a porpoise?" 

"No." 

" Ingrate!" 

"Ingrate?" she said, rising, "I can leave this 
house instantly, carrying nothing but my person. I 
have given you all the treasures a young girl pos- 
sesses, and something that all your blood and mine 
cannot give back to me. If I could, by any means 
whatever, by selling my immortality, for instance, 
recover the purity of my body as I have, perhaps, 
recovered that of my soul, and could give myself to 
my lover as pure as a lily, I would not hesitate one 
second ! With what devotion have you rewarded 
mine? You have fed and housed me from the same 
feeling that leads one to feed a dog and give him a 
kennel to sleep in, because he keeps good watch over 
us, because he receives our kicks when we are in a 
bad humor, and licks our hand as soon as we call him 
back. Which of us two has been the more generous?" 

"Oh! my dear child, don't you see that I am 
joking," rejoined Castanier. " I am going on a little 
trip that won't last long. But you must come to 
the Gymnase with me; I shall start about midnight, 
after saying adieu to you." 

" My poor boy, so you are really going away?" 
she said, taking him by the neck and drawing his 
head down upon her bosom. 

"You're suffocating me!" cried Castanier, with 
his nose against Aquilina's breast. 



64 MELMOTH CONVERTED 

The honest girl put her lips to Jenny's ear: 

" Go and tell Leon not to come until one o'clock. 
If you don't find him and he arrives during our fare- 
well, keep him in your room. Well," she said aloud, 
holding Castanier's face in front of her own and 
pulling his nose, " well, then, O loveliest of por- 
poises, I will go to the theatre with you to-night. 
But, in that case, let us have dinner! You have a 
nice little dinner, everything that you like." 

" It's very hard to leave a woman like you!" said 
Castanier. 

" Why do you go, then?" she asked. 

"Ah! why? why? To explain it to you, I must 
tell you things that would prove to you that my love 
goes to the point of madness. If you have given me 
your honor, I have sold mine, so we are quits. Is 
that love?" 

"What does that amount to?" she replied. 
" Come, tell me that, if I had a lover, you would 
continue to love me like a father; that would be 
love! Come, tell me at once and give me your 
hand on it." 

" I would kill you," said Castanier, with a smile. 

They adjourned to the dining-room, and went to 
the Gymnase after they had dined. When the first 
play was at an end, Castanier determined to speak 
to certain acquaintances whom he had noticed in the 
audience, in order to avert as long as possible any 
suspicion that he had absconded. He left Madame 
de la Garde in her box, which, in accordance with 
her modest habits, was one of the best in the house, 



MELMOTH CONVERTED 65 

and went out to saunter in the foyer. He had taken 
but a few steps, when he recognized the features of 
Melmoth, whose glance caused him the same inward 
burning sensation, the same terror that he had felt 
before; in a moment they stood face to face. 

" Forger!" cried the Englishman. 

When he heard that word, Castanier glanced at 
the people who were walking near them. He fancied 
that he detected an expression of amazement mingled 
with curiosity upon their faces, and determined to 
rid himself of the Englishman on the spot; he raised 
his hand to strike him, but he felt that his arm was 
paralyzed by an irresistible power, which took pos- 
session of his strength and nailed him to the spot; 
he allowed the stranger to take his arm, and they 
walked together up and down the foyer like two 
friends. 

"Who is strong enough to resist me?" said the 
Englishman. " Do you not know that everybody 
on earth is bound to obey me, that I can do any- 
thing? I read men's hearts, I see the future, I know 
the past. I am here, and I may be elsewhere! 1 
depend neither on time nor space nor distance. The 
world is my servant. I have the faculty of being 
always happy and of always imparting happiness. 
My eye ' sees through walls, discovers treasures, 
and 1 draw freely upon them. At a nod of my 
head, palaces spring up, and my architect is never at 
fault. I can make flowers bloom in any soil, pile up 
gold and precious stones, procure women who are 
never the same; in a word, everything yields to me. 
5 



66 MELMOTH CONVERTED 

I could trade on the Bourse with perfect safety, if 
the man who knows how to find gold where misers 
bury it needed to draw upon other men's purses. 
Feel, therefore, O miserable wretch doomed to ever- 
lasting shame, feel the power of the claw that holds 
you! Try to bend this arm of iron! soften this 
heart of adamant! dare to stir from my side! If 
you should be in the depths of the caverns under 
the Seine, would you not hear my voice? If you 
should enter the Catacombs, would you not see me? 
My voice drowns the roar of the thunder, my eyes 
rival the sun in brilliancy, for I am the equal of Him 
who bears the light." 

Castanier listened to those terrible words, nothing 
in his feelings tended to contradict them, and he 
walked by the Englishman's side, unable to leave 
him. 

" You belong to me, you have committed a crime. 
So I have found at last the companion I sought. Do 
you know your destiny? Ha! ha! you expected to 
see a play, you shall not be disappointed, you shall 
see two. Come, present me to Madame de la Garde 
as one of your best friends. Am I not your last 
hope?" 

Castanier returned to his box, accompanied by the 
stranger, whom he made haste to present to Madame 
de la Garde according to the orders he had received. 
Aquilina did not seem surprised to see Melmoth. 
The Englishman declined to sit at the front of the 
box, but insisted that Castanier should sit beside 
his mistress. The Englishman's slightest wish was a 



MELMOTH CONVERTED 67 

command that must be obeyed. The play about to 
be performed was the last. At that time, the smaller 
theatres gave only three plays. The Gymnase had 
an actor just then who assured its popularity. Perlet 
was to play the Comedien d'Etampes, a vaudeville in 
which he played four different parts. When the 
curtain rose, the stranger stretched his hand out 
over the audience. Castanier uttered a cry of 
alarm, but it stuck in his windpipe, which contracted 
violently, for Melmoth pointed to the stage, thus 
giving him to understand that he had ordered the 
play to be changed. The cashier beheld Nucingen's 
private office; his employer was there in consultation 
with one of the higher officials from the prefecture 
of police, who was describing Castanier's modus 
operandi, and advising him of the robbery of his 
safe, the forgery committed to his detriment, and the 
flight of his cashier. A complaint was at once drawn 
up, signed, and despatched to the king's attorney. 

"Do you think we shall be in time?" asked 
Nucingen. 

" Yes," replied the officer; " he's at the Gymnase, 
and suspects nothing." 

Castanier fidgeted on his chair and attempted to 
leave the box; but the hand Melmoth laid upon his 
shoulder compelled him to remain, by the same 
ghastly power whose effects we feel in a nightmare. 
That man was nightmare personified, and weighed 
upon Castanier like an atmosphere heavy with 
poison. When the poor cashier turned to the Eng- 
lishman to implore mercy, he encountered a glance of 



68 MELMOTH CONVERTED 

fire which shot forth electric currents, sharp points 
of metal, as it were, which seemed to enter Casta- 
nier's body, transfix him, and nail him to his chair. 

" What have I done to you?" he said, in his dis- 
tress, panting like a deer on the brink of a stream; 
" what do you want of me?" 

"Look!" cried Melmoth. 

Castanier looked at what was taking place on the 
stage. The scene had been changed, the play was 
done; Castanier saw himself on the stage, alighting 
from his carriage with Aquilina; but, just as they 
were entering the courtyard of his house on Rue 
Richer, the scene suddenly changed again and he 
saw the interior of his apartment. Jenny was sit- 
ting by the fire, in her mistress's bedroom, talking 
with a subaltern of a regiment of the line then in 
garrison in Paris. 

"He is going away," said the sergeant, who 
seemed to belong to a well-to-do family, " so I shall 
be happy at my ease! I love Aquilina too dearly to 
endure the thought of her belonging to that old toad ! 
For my part, I will marry Madame de la Garde!" 
cried the sergeant. 

" Here are monsieur and madame, hide! Quick! 
quick! go in here, Monsieur Leon!" said Jenny. 
" Monsieur isn't likely to stay long." 

Castanier saw the subaltern crawl behind Aqui- 
lina's dresses in her dressing-room. Soon he him- 
self came on once more and went through the parting 
scene with his mistress, who made fun of him in her 
asides to Jenny, talking to him all the while in the 



MELMOTH CONVERTED 69 

sweetest, most affectionate tone. She wept with 
one side of her face, smiled with the other. The 
audience demanded a repetition of the scene. 

"Accursed woman!" cried Castanier from his box. 

Aquilina laughed till the tears rolled down her 
cheeks, crying: 

"Mon Dieu! what a comical Englishwoman Per- 
let makes! Why, you're the only one in the whole 
audience who isn't laughing, old boy! Laugh, I tell 
you!" she said to the cashier. 

Mel moth began to laugh in a way that made the 
cashier shudder. The English chuckle wrung his 
entrails and agitated his brain as if a surgeon had 
trepanned him with a hot iron. 

" They laugh! they laugh!" said Castanier, hys- 
terically. 

At that moment, instead of seeing the mock-mod- 
est lady whom Perlet represented so comically, and 
whose Anglo-French dialect kept the whole audi- 
ence in a roar of laughter, the cashier saw himself 
hurrying along Rue Richer, entering a cab on the 
boulevard, making a bargain with the driver to take 
him to Versailles. Again the scene changed. He 
recognized the little one-eyed inn kept by his former 
quartermaster, at the corner of Rue de 1'Orangerie 
and Rue des Recollets. It was two o'clock in the 
morning, the most profound silence reigned, no one 
was watching his movements, post-horses were har- 
nessed to his carriage, and it was on its way from a 
house on Avenue de Paris, the residence of an Eng- 
lishman in whose name it had been ordered, in order 



70 MELMOTH CONVERTED 

to avert suspicion. Castanier had his money and 
his passports, he entered the carriage and started. 
But at the barrier he saw divers gendarmes on foot 
waiting for the carriage. He uttered a terrible cry 
which a glance from Melmoth silenced. 

"Look, and hold your peace!" said the English- 
man. 

In a moment, Castanier saw himself cast into 
prison at the Conciergerie. Then, in the fifth act of 
that drama entitled The Cashier, he saw himself, 
three months later, leaving the Assize Court, sen- 
tenced to twenty years' penal servitude. He cried 
aloud once more when he saw himself on exhibition 
on Place du Palais-de-Justice and branded by the 
executioner's red-hot iron. Finally, in the last scene, 
he was in the courtyard at Bice"tre, with sixty other 
convicts, awaiting his turn to have the fetters riveted 
on his leg. 

"Mon Dieu! I cannot laugh any more!" said 
Aquilina. "You are very dismal, my boy! what 
in Heaven's name's the matter with you? That 
gentleman isn't here now." 

"Just a word, Castanier," said Melmoth, when 
the performance was at an end and the box-opener 
was putting on Madame de la Garde's cloak. 

The corridor was crowded, flight was impossi- 
ble. 

"Well, what is it?" 

" No human power can prevent you from escort- 
ing Aquilina home, going to Versailles, and being 
arrested." 



MELMOTH CONVERTED 71 

"Why?" 

" Because the arm that holds you will not let you 
go," said the Englishman. 

Castanier would have liked to be able to say a 
word, to annihilate himself, and disappear in the 
depths of hell. 

" If the devil should ask you for your soul, wouldn't 
you give it to him in exchange for a power equal to 
the power of God? At a single word, you could re- 
store to Baron de Nucingen's strong-box the five 
hundred thousand francs you took from it. Then, 
by tearing up your letter of credit, you could wipe 
out every trace of crime. Lastly, you would have 
gold in oceans. You hardly believe any of this, do 
you? Very good; if it all comes to pass, you will at 
least believe in the devil." 

" If it were possible!" said Castanier, joyfully. 

" He who can do this," replied the Englishman, 
"assures you that it is." 

Melmoth put out his arm as he and Castanier and 
Madame de la Garde were walking along the boule- 
vard. A fine rain was falling, the ground was muddy, 
the atmosphere heavy, and the sky black. The in- 
stant that man's arm was extended, the sun shone 
upon Paris. To Castanier it seemed to be a beautiful 
July afternoon. The trees were covered with leaves, 
and the good Parisians, in their Sunday clothes, 
strolled along in two joyous lines. The liquorice- 
water vendors were crying: " Fresh-made bever- 
age!" Gorgeous equipages rolled by. The cashier 
uttered a cry of terror. At that cry, the boulevard 



72 MELMOTH CONVERTED 

became damp and dark as before. Madame de la 
Garde had entered the carriage. 

" Come, come, hurry, my dear!" she said, " either 
get in or stay out. Upon my word, you're as trying 
to-night as this rain." 

" What must I do?" Castanier asked Melmoth. 

" Do you wish to take my place?" 

" Yes." 

" Very well, I will be at your apartments in a few 
moments." 

"Look you, Castanier, you're not in your ordi- 
nary frame of mind," said Aquilina. "You're con- 
templating something out of the way, you were too 
glum and too thoughtful during the performance. 
My dear boy, are you in need of anything that I can 
give you? tell me." 

" I am waiting until we get home to find out 
whether you love me." 

" It isn't worth while to wait," she said, throwing 
her arms about his neck, " see this." 

She kissed him passionately, to all appearance, 
and showered upon him the cajoleries that, in crea- 
tures of that class, become part of the stock in trade, 
just as stage tricks are to an actress. 

"Where does this music come from?" said Cas- 
tanier. 

"Well, well, so you hear music now, do you?" 

"Heavenly music!" he replied. "I should say 
that the strains come from on high." 

"What! you have always refused to give me a 
box at the Italiens, on the pretext that you couldn't 



IN AQUILINA'S DRESSING-ROOM 



Castanier went into the dressing-room after light- 
ing- the candle. The poor girl, dazed with fear, 
followed him, and great was her astonishment when 
Castanier, having put aside the dresses hanging 
against the wall, revealed the subaltern. 

"Come, my dear fellow" he said. 



MELMOTH CONVERTED 73 

endure music, and now you're music-mad ! Why, 
you're crazy! your music's in your noddle, old 
dunderpate," she said, taking his head and rock- 
ing it against her shoulder. "Say, papa, are the 
carriage-wheels singing?" 

"Just listen, Naqui ! If the angels sing for the 
good Lord, it must be such singing as this; the 
strains enter my body through every pore as well 
as through my ears, and I know not how to describe 
it to you, for it is as sweet as distilled honey!" 

" Why, of course, the angels do entertain the good 
Lord with music, for they are always represented 
with harps. On my word of honor, he's mad!" 
she said, as Castanier assumed the attitude of an 
opium-eater in a trance. 

They had reached the house. Castanier, en- 
grossed by all that he had seen and heard, not 
knowing whether he should believe or doubt, stag- 
gered like a drunken man, bereft of reason. He re- 
covered consciousness in Aquilina's room, whither 
he had been carried by his mistress, the concierge, 
and Jenny, for he had fainted on alighting from the 
carriage. 

" My friends, my friends, he is coming !" he ex- 
claimed, burying himself in his easy-chair by the 
fire, with a gesture of despair. 

At that moment, Jenny heard the bell, went to the 
door, and announced the Englishman as a gentleman 
who said that he had an appointment with Castanier. 
Melmoth suddenly appeared. There was a profound 
silence. He looked at the concierge, the concierge 



74 MELMOTH CONVERTED 

left the room. He looked at Jenny, Jenny left the 
room. 

"Madame," he said to the courtesan, "permit 
me to conclude a little matter that admits of no 
delay." 

He took Castanier's hand, and Castanier arose. 
They went together into the unlighted salon, for 
Melmoth's eye illumined the most dense darkness. 
Fascinated by the strange expression of the unknown, 
Aquilina remained helpless in her bedroom, inca- 
pable of thinking of her lover, whom she believed 
to be safely hidden in her maid's room, whereas 
Jenny, surprised by Castanier's early return, had 
hidden him in the dressing-room, as in the drama 
witnessed by Melmoth and his victim. The door of 
the apartment was closed with violence, and Cas- 
tanier soon reappeared. 

"What is the matter with you?" cried his mis- 
tress, horror-struck. 

The cashier's face was transformed. His ruddy 
complexion had given place to the strange pallor 
that made the stranger awe-inspiring and cold. His 
eyes gave forth a threatening flame that wounded 
one by its insufferable brilliancy. His affable man- 
ner had become despotic and proud. To the courte- 
san he seemed to have grown thin, his brow was 
awful in its majesty, and he exhaled a terrifying cur- 
rent that weighed upon others like a heavy atmos- 
phere. Aquilina for a moment had a feeling of awe. 

" What can have happened between that diabolical 
man and you in so short a time?" she asked. 



MELMOTH CONVERTED 75 

" I have sold my soul. I can feel that I am no 
longer the same. He has taken my being and given 
me his." 

"What?" 

"You could not understand. Ah!" added Cas- 
tanier, coldly, "that devil was right! I see every- 
thing and know everything. You have deceived me!" 

Those words froze Aquilina's blood. Castanier 
went into the dressing-room after lighting the candle. 
The poor girl, dazed with fear, followed him, and 
great was her astonishment when Castanier, having 
put aside the dresses hanging against the wall, re- 
vealed the subaltern. 

"Come, my dear fellow," he said, taking Leon 
by the button of his coat and leading him into the 
bedroom. 

The Piedmontese, pale and desperate, had thrown 
herself into her armchair. Castanier sat on the 
couch by the hearth, leaving Aquilina's lover stand- 
ing. 

" You are an old soldier," said Leon, " I am ready 
to give you satisfaction." 

"You're a fool," retorted Castanier, dryly. " I 
don't need to fight, I can kill whomever I please, 
with a glance. I am going to tell you your story, 
my boy. Why should I kill you? You have on your 
neck a red line that I can see. The guillotine awaits 
you. Yes, you will die on Place de Greve. You 
belong to the executioner, nothing can save you. 
You are one of a section of the Carbonari. You're 
conspiring against the government." 



76 MELMOTH CONVERTED 

"You never told me that!" cried the Piedmontese 
to Leon. 

"So you don't know," continued the cashier, 
"that the ministry decided this morning to prose- 
cute your society? The procureur-general has taken 
your names. You are denounced by traitors. At 
this moment, they're at work preparing the charge 
against you." 

" Then it was you who betrayed him?" said Aqui- 
lina, and she rose and rushed at Castanier with a 
roar like that of a wounded lioness. 

" You know me too well to believe it," he replied, 
with an imperturbable manner that turned her to 
stone. 

" How do you know it, then?" 

" I didn't know it until I went into the salon; but 
now I see everything, I know everything, I can do 
everything." 

The subaltern was stupefied. 

"Then save him, my friend!" cried the girl, 
throwing herself at Castanier's feet. " Save him, 
if you can do everything! I will love you, I will wor- 
ship you, I will be your slave instead of your mis- 
tress ! I will bow to your most extravagant caprices, 
you shall do with me what you will ! Yes, I will find 
something more than love for you; I will be as de- 
voted as a daughter to her father, in addition to 
But you understand, Rodolphe! However violent 
my passions may be, I will always be yours! What 
is there that I can say to you to move you? I will 
invent new pleasures I God help me! if you want 



MELMOTH CONVERTED 77 

me to do anything under heaven, to throw myself 
out of the window, you have only to say: ' Leon!' 
and I will jump into hell, welcome every variety of 
suffering, disease, and sorrow, whatever you choose 
to inflict on me!" 

Castanier was unmoved. His only reply was to 
point to Leon, and say, with a demoniacal laugh: 

" The guillotine awaits him." 

" No, he shall not leave this room, I will save 
him!" she cried. "Yes, I will kill the man that 
touches him! Why won't you consent to save 
him?" she shrieked in a piercing voice, her eyes 
aflame, her hair dishevelled. "Can you?" 

" I can do anything." 

" Why won't you save him?" 

"Why?" cried Castanier in a voice that shook 
the rafters. "Ah! I am having my revenge! It is 
my trade to do harm." 

"Die!" rejoined Aquilina, "he, my lover, die! is 
it possible?" 

She rushed to her commode, snatched a stiletto 
from a work-basket, and leaped at Castanier, who 
began to laugh. 

" You know very well that steel cannot touch me 
now." 

Aquilina's arm relaxed like a harp-string suddenly 
cut. 

" Go, my dear fellow," said the cashier, turning 
to the subaltern; "go about your business." 

He put out his hand, and the soldier was obliged 
to obey the superior force Castanier exerted. 



78 MELMOTH CONVERTED 

" I am in my own house, I might send to the com- 
missioner of police and hand over to him a man 
who comes into my house by stealth, but I prefer to 
restore your liberty: 1 am a devil, not a spy." 

" I will go with him!" said Aquilina. 

"Go with him," Castanier retorted. "Jenny!" 

Jenny answered his summons. 

"Send the concierge to call a cab for them. 
Here, Naqui," he added, taking a package of bank- 
notes from his pocket, "you shall not leave a man 
who still loves you, like a poor abandoned creature." 

He handed her three hundred thousand francs; 
Aquilina took them, threw them on the floor, spit on 
them, stamped on them in a frenzy of despair. 

"We will both go out on foot," she exclaimed, 
"without a sou from you! Stay, Jenny." 

" Good-night," retorted the cashier, picking up his 
money. " I have just returned from a journey. 
Jenny," he said, looking at the wondering lady's 
maid, " you seem to me a good girl. You're without 
a mistress; come here! For to-night you shall have a 
master." 

Aquilina, distrustful of everyone, went at once 
with the subaltern to the house of one of her friends. 
But Leon was under suspicion by the police, who 
caused him to be followed wherever he went. He 
was arrested a few days later, with his three friends, 
as the newspapers of the day record. 

The cashier was conscious of a complete change, 
moral as well as physical. The former Castanier, 
child, youth, lover, soldier, brave, deceived, married, 



MELMOTH CONVERTED 79 

undeceived, cashier, passionate, a criminal through 
love, no longer existed. His interior form had burst. 
In a twinkling his brain had expanded, his senses 
had broadened. His mind embraced the whole 
world, he saw things as if he were placed at a tre- 
mendous height. Before going to the play, he had 
a most insane passion for Aquilina; rather than give 
her up he would have shut his eyes to her infidel- 
ity; that blind sentiment had faded away as a cloud 
vanishes before the sun's rays. 

Overjoyed to step into her mistress's shoes and 
possess her fortune, Jenny did whatever the cashier 
wished. But Castanier, having the power to read 
the mind, discovered the real motive of that purely 
physical devotion. So he amused himself with that 
girl with the malicious greediness of a child who, 
after squeezing the juice from a cherry, throws 
away the stone. The next morning, at breakfast, 
when she fancied herself duly installed as mistress 
of the house, Castanier, as he drank his coffee, re- 
peated to her word for word, thought for thought, 
what she was saying to herself. 

" Do you know what you're thinking, my girl?" 
he said, with a smile; "this is it: ' This lovely violet- 
wood furniture that I wanted so badly, and these 
beautiful dresses that I've been trying on, are mine! 
They have cost me only a few trifles that madame 
refused him, I don't know why! Faith, for the sake 
of riding in a carriage, having fine clothes, having a 
box at the theatre, and obtaining a nice little income, 
I'd give him enjoyment enough to kill him, if he 



80 MELMOTH CONVERTED 

weren't as lusty as a Turk. I never saw such a 
man!' Is that about it?" he continued, in a voice 
that made Jenny turn pale. "Well, my girl, you 
wouldn't hold to your bargain, and it's for your own 
good that I send you away; you would die at the 
task. Come, let us part good friends." 

He dismissed her coldly, giving her a small sum. 

The first use Castanier had promised himself to 
make of the terrible power he had purchased at the 
price of his everlasting salvation was to satisfy his 
inclinations fully and absolutely. After putting his 
affairs in order, and settling his accounts satisfac- 
torily with Monsieur de Nucingen, who hired an 
honest German to succeed him, he determined to 
have a debauch worthy of the Roman Empire at its 
best, and plunged into it as desperately as Belshaz- 
zar attacked his last feast. But, like Belshazzar, 
he distinctly saw a hand gleaming with light writing 
his doom in the midst of his carousing, not on the 
narrow walls of a room, but on the boundless walls 
upon which the rainbow appears. His feast was 
not, in truth, a revel confined to the limits of a ban- 
quet, it was a reckless squandering of every element 
of strength and enjoyment. The earth itself was, 
in a manner, the festive board that he felt quiver- 
ing beneath his feet. It was the last revel of a 
debauchee who spares nothing. Drawing without 
stint upon the treasure of human lust, the key of 
which had been handed him by the demon, he soon 
reached the bottom. That enormous power, grasped 
in a moment, was put to the test, found reliable, and 



MELMOTH CONVERTED 8l 

abused. That which was everything was nothing. 
It often happens that possession ruins the most 
ecstatic poems of desire, for the object possessed 
rarely answers to desire's dreams. That pitiful 
ending of a few passions was the secret concealed 
beneath Melmoth's omnipotence. The emptiness of 
human nature was abruptly revealed to his successor, 
to whom supreme power brought nothingness by 
way of dowry. In order to understand clearly the 
peculiar situation in which Castanier was placed, 
one must be able to form an idea of its swift trans- 
formations, and to conceive how brief was their dura- 
tion, a thing which it is difficult to explain to those 
who are imprisoned by the laws of time, space, and 
distance. His broadened faculties had changed the 
relations that formerly existed between the world 
and himself. Like Melmoth, Castanier could in a 
few seconds alight in the smiling valleys of Hindos- 
tan, fly upon demons' wings across the African 
deserts, and skim along the surface of the sea. Just 
as his keenness of vision enabled him to go to the 
root of everything the instant that his faculties were 
directed upon any material object, or into another 
person's mind, so his tongue tasted, so to speak, all 
the delicious flavors at one touch. His pleasure 
resembled the blows of the axe of despotism, which 
fells the tree in order to obtain the fruit. The trans- 
itions, the alternations which furnish a measure of 
joy and suffering, and give variety to all human 
pleasures, had no existence for him. His palate, 
sensitive beyond all measure, had suddenly been 
6 



82 MELMOTH CONVERTED 

spoiled through being surfeited with everything. 
Women and good cheer were two varieties of pleas- 
ure which palled upon him so completely as soon 
as he was able to enjoy them in such way as to 
out-pleasure pleasure, that he ceased to have the 
slightest desire to eat or to love. Knowing that he 
was the master of all the women he might desire, 
and knowing that he was possessed of a power 
which would never fail him, he wanted no more of 
women; finding them prepared in advance to submit 
to his most outrageous caprices, he felt a horrible 
thirst for love, and wished them to be more loving 
than it was in their power to be. But the only things 
the world denied him were faith and prayer, those 
two healing and consoling loves. Everyone obeyed 
him. It was a ghastly state of affairs. The torrents 
of sorrows, of pleasures, of thoughts, that shook his 
body and his soul would have been too much for 
the strongest human being ; but there was in him 
a power of living proportioned to the violence of the 
sensations that assailed him. He felt within him an 
enormous something which the earth no longer satis- 
fied. He passed the day spreading his wings, seek- 
ing to traverse the spheres of light of which he had 
a distinct and distressing intuition. He was drying 
up internally, for he was hungry and thirsty for 
things which could not be eaten or drunk, but which 
attracted him irresistibly. His lips glowed with 
desire, like Melmoth's own, and he panted for the 
UNKNOWN, for he knew everything. Being per- 
mitted to see the active principle and the mechanism 



MELMOTH CONVERTED 83 

of the world, he ceased to admire their results, and 
soon manifested that profound contempt which makes 
the man of superior mould like a sphinx who knows 
everything, sees everything, and remains silent and 
unmoved. He did not feel the slightest inclination 
to communicate his knowledge to other men. Rich 
in the possession of the whole earth, and endowed 
with the power to encircle it at one bound, wealth 
and power no longer had any meaning for him. He 
experienced that ghastly depression attaching to 
supreme power which only God and Satan can 
overcome by an activity of which they alone possess 
the secret. 

Castanier had not, like his master, an inexhausti- 
ble power of hatred and evil-doing; he felt that he 
was a demon, but a demon in futuro, whereas Satan 
is a demon for all eternity; nothing can redeem him, 
and he knows it, so he takes pleasure in stirring up 
the world with his three-pronged fork, as if it were 
a dungheap, and interfering with God's projects. 
Unluckily for Castanier, he retained a shadow of 
hope. He could go abruptly, in an instant, from 
pole to pole, as a bird flies desperately from side to 
side of its cage; but when he had taken that flight, 
like the bird, he saw boundless space. He had a 
vision of the infinite which made it impossible for 
him to regard human affairs as other men regard 
them. The madmen who desire the power of the 
devil judge that power from their standpoint as 
human beings, not foreseeing that they must shoul- 
der the devil's ideas when they assume his power, 



84 MELMOTH CONVERTED 

while they continue to be men and to remain among 
other men who can no longer understand them. The 
unpublished Nero who dreams of burning Paris for 
his diversion, just as a supposititious conflagration is 
represented on the stage, does not suspect that Paris 
will become to him what an ant-hill by the roadside 
is to the hurried traveller. The sciences were to 
Castanier what an enigma is to him who knows the 
answer. Kings and governments aroused his pity. 
His grand debauch, therefore, was, in a certain 
sense, a deplorable farewell to his human state. 
He felt stifled on earth, for his infernal power en- 
abled him to watch the processes of creation, whose 
moving causes and final result he knew. Knowing 
that he was excluded from what men call heaven in 
every language, he could think of nothing but heaven. 
He understood the inward shrivelling depicted on his 
predecessor's face, he measured the significance of 
that glance inflamed by a hope never fulfilled, he 
experienced the thirst that parched that red lip, and 
the distress of a constant combat between two ex- 
panded natures. He might yet be an angel, he was 
a devil. He resembled the sweet creature who was 
imprisoned by the ill-will of a sorcerer in a deformed 
body, and, being bound by the terms of her compact, 
required the assistance of another person's will to 
destroy the hated envelope. Just as the truly great 
man is the more eager in his search for infinity of 
sentiment in a woman's heart, after being deceived, 
so Castanier suddenly found himself beset by a 
single idea, the idea which was, perhaps, the key to 



MELMOTH CONVERTED 85 

the worlds above. By virtue of the very fact that he 
had renounced his hope of everlasting happiness, 
he could think of nothing but the future of those who 
pray and believe. When, upon the conclusion of 
the debauch during which he took possession of his 
power, he felt the clutch of that sentiment, he ex- 
perienced the agony that the sanctified poets, the 
apostles, and the great oracles of the faith have de- 
scribed in such grandiose terms. Spurred on by the 
flaming sword whose sharp point he felt in his loins, 
he ran to Melmoth's house to see what had become 
of his predecessor. The Englishman lived on Rue 
Ferou, near Saint-Sulpice, in a gloomy, dark, damp, 
cold house. That street, which runs north and south 
like all those which strike the left bank of the Seine 
at right angles, is one of the most dismal in Paris, and 
its characteristics are reflected in the houses that line 
it. When Castanier stood in the doorway, he saw 
that it was draped with black, as was the vestibule. 
The vestibule gleamed with the lights of a mortuary 
apartment. A temporary cenotaph had been erected 
there, and a priest stood on each side. 

" I need not ask you why you have come, mon- 
sieur," said an old portress to Castanier: " you look 
too much like the poor dear deceased. If you're his 
brother, you have come too late to bid him good-bye. 
The excellent man died the night before last." 

"How did he die?" Castanier asked one of the 
priests. 

"Be happy," an old priest answered, raising one 
side of the black cloths that surrounded the cenotaph. 



86 MELMOTH CONVERTED 

Castanier saw one of those faces which faith 
makes sublime, and through whose pores the soul 
seems to go forth to shine upon other men and ex- 
cite them by persistently instilling sentiments of 
charity. The priest was Sir John Melmoth's con- 
fessor. 

"Monsieur, your brother," he said, "made an 
end worthy of emulation, which must have rejoiced 
the hearts of the angels. Do you know what joy is 
aroused in heaven by the conversion of one single 
soul? The tears of repentance, called forth by 
divine grace, flowed unceasingly; death alone could 
dry them. The Holy Spirit was in him. His ardent, 
earnest words were worthy of the prophet-king. 
While it is true that 1 have never, in the course 
of my life, heard a more horrifying confession than 
that of this Irish gentleman, it is equally true that I 
have never heard more fervent prayers than his. 
Great as his sins may have been, his repentance 
filled the abyss in an instant. God's hand was 
visibly extended over him, for he did not resemble 
himself; he had become so beautiful, with a saintlike 
beauty. His eyes, once so hard, were softened by 
his tears; his voice, once so resonant and terrifying, 
acquired the softness and charm which distinguish 
the voices of men who have humbled themselves. 
He so edified those who listened to his words, that 
the persons drawn hither by the spectacle of that 
Christian death fell upon their knees as they heard 
him glorify God, tell of His infinite grandeur, and 
discourse of heavenly things. Although he leaves 



MELMOTH CONVERTED 87 

his family nothing, he has surely bestowed upon it 
the most precious treasure that families can possess, 
a sanctified soul that will watch over you all and lead 
you in the straight path." 

These words produced such a powerful effect upon 
Castanier, that he left the house abruptly and walked 
toward Saint-Sulpice, obeying a sort of fatality; Mel- 
moth's repentance had bewildered him. About that 
time, a man, famous for his eloquence, was holding 
conferences on certain days, in the morning, his aim 
being to demonstrate the verities of the Catholic 
Church to the youth of the period, who had been de- 
clared, by another no less eloquent voice, to be in- 
different in the matter of faith. The conference on 
that day was to be followed by the Irishman's 
funeral. Castanier arrived at the precise moment 
when the preacher was about to sum up the proofs of 
our happy future, with the unctuous charm, with the 
penetrating eloquence, which made him illustrious. 
The ex-dragoon, into whose skin the devil had crept, 
was in the most favorable condition to receive with 
fruitful results the seed of the divine words as in- 
terpreted by the priest. In truth, if there is one 
indubitable phenomenon, is it not the moral phenom- 
enon which the common people have called the char- 
coal-burner's faith?* The power of faith is in direct 
ratio to the greater or less use a man has made of 
his reasoning powers. Men of simple lives, and sol- 
diers, are of this number. They who have marched 

*Lafoi du charbonnier , a phrase used to express a faith that is absolute and 
unquestioning. 



88 MELMOTH CONVERTED 

under the banner of instinct are much better fitted 
to receive the light than they whose minds and 
hearts have become fatigued in the subtleties of the 
world. From the age of sixteen until he was nearly 
forty, Castanier, a man of the South, had followed 
the French flag. A simple cavalryman, obliged to 
fight yesterday and to-day and to-morrow, he natu- 
rally thought of his horse before thinking of himself. 
During his military apprenticeship, therefore, he had 
few hours to think of the future of mankind. As 
an officer, he had given his thoughts to his soldiers, 
and he had gone from battle-field to battle-field with- 
out once thinking of the day after death. Military 
life calls for few ideas. Men who are incapable of 
rising to the height of those lofty combinations 
which embrace the rights and duties of nations with 
respect to one another, political plans as well as 
plans of campaign, the science of the tactician and 
that of the administrator such men live in a state of 
ignorance comparable to that of the stupidest peasant 
in the least progressive province of France. They 
go forward, passively obeying the mind that com- 
mands them, and kill the men in front of them as 
the wood-cutter fells trees in a forest. They pass 
and repass constantly from a state of violent excite- 
ment which calls for the exertion of all their physi- 
cal strength, to a state of repose during which they 
repair their losses. They strike and drink, they 
strike and eat, they strike and sleep, in order that 
they may strike more effectively. In that life of 
turmoil their mental qualities are exercised but little. 



MELMOTH CONVERTED 89 

The mental equipment retains its primitive simplicity. 
When these men, who exhibit such energy on the 
field of battle, return to civilization, the greater part 
of those who have remained in the lower grades are 
without acquired ideas, without faculties, without 
breadth. So that the younger generation is amazed 
to find those members of our glorious and terrible 
armies as devoid of intelligence as any clerk, and as 
simple-minded as children. It would be hard to find 
a captain in the death-dealing Garde Imperiale who 
is fitted to sign receipts for subscriptions to a news- 
paper. When old soldiers are in this condition, their 
minds, innocent of reasoning power, obey any power- 
ful impulsion. The crime committed by Castanier 
was one of those facts which raise so many questions, 
that, in order to discuss it, the moralist would have 
demanded a division of the question, to employ a 
parliamentary expression. The crime was suggested 
by passion, by one of those instances of feminine 
witchcraft so irresistible that no man can say: "I will 
never do that," when a siren takes a hand in the 
struggle and exerts her fascinations. The word of 
life therefore fell upon a mind new to the religious 
truths which the French Revolution and the life of a 
soldier had caused Castanier to neglect. The awful 
words: " You will be happy or unhappy throughout 
eternity!" made the more violent impression upon 
him because he had grown weary of earth, because 
he had shaken it like a tree without fruit, and be- 
cause, in the impotence of his desires, nothing more 
was needed than that a certain point in heaven or 



90 MELMOTH CONVERTED 

earth should be forbidden to him, to make his heart 
yearn for it. If we may be permitted to compare 
such momentous things with social trifles, he resem- 
bled those multi-millionaire bankers whom no one 
in society can resist, but who, not having been ad- 
mitted to the circles of nobility, have no other desire 
than to be so admitted, and count for nothing all 
the social privileges they may have acquired so long 
as one is still lacking. That man, more powerful 
than all the kings on earth, that man, who could, 
like Satan, contend with God himself, stood leaning 
against one of the pillars of Saint-Sulpice, bowed by 
the weight of a sentiment and buried in thoughts 
of the future, even as Melmoth had buried himself. 

" He is very fortunate!" cried Castanier, " he died 
with the certainty of going to heaven." 

Instantly a most complete change took place in the 
cashier's ideas. Having been a demon for several 
days, he was now a mere man once more, the image 
of the original fall commemorated in all cosmogonies. 
But, though he became outwardly small, he had ac- 
quired a source of inward grandeur, he had dipped 
into the infinite. The infernal power had revealed 
to him the divine power. His thirst for heaven was 
more intense than his hunger had been for earthly 
pleasures, so soon exhausted. The enjoyments the 
devil promises are only those of 'earth intensified, 
whereas the joys of heaven are without bounds. 
That man believed in God. The words that de- 
livered the treasures of the world to him were as 
nothing in his sight, and those treasures seemed to 



MELMOTH CONVERTED 91 

him as contemptible as pebbles are in the eyes of 
those who love diamonds; for, as he saw them, they 
were mere tinsel in comparison with the undying 
beauties of the other life. To his mind, any good 
coming from that source was accursed. He remained 
plunged in an abyss of dark shadows and depressing 
thoughts, listening to the service for Melmoth. The 
Dies Irce terrified him. He understood in all its 
grandeur that cry of the penitent soul shuddering in 
presence of the Divine Majesty. He was suddenly 
consumed by the Holy Spirit as fire consumes straw. 
Tears flowed from his eyes. 

"Are you a kinsman of the deceased?" inquired 
the beadle. 

" His heir," replied Castanier. 

"Something for the cost of the service!" cried 
the beadle. 

" No," said the cashier, who did not choose to 
give the devil's money to the church. 

" For the poor!" 

"No." 

" For repairing the church!" 

"No." 

"For the chapel of the Virgin!" 

"No." 

" For the seminary!" 

"No." 

Castanier withdrew, to avoid the angry glances 
of several churchmen. 

"Why," he said to himself as he gazed at Saint-Sul- 
pice, "why did men build these gigantic cathedrals, 



92 MELMOTH CONVERTED 

which I have seen in all countries? This senti- 
ment, which the masses have shared in all ages, 
must rest upon something." 

"You call God something!" cried his conscience. 
"God! God! God!" 

That word, echoed by an inward voice, over- 
whelmed him, but his sensation of terror was 
allayed by the distant strains of the divine music 
which he had already vaguely heard. He attrib- 
uted those harmonious sounds to the choir of the 
church, and gazed at the great doorway. But by 
listening more attentively, he found that the sound 
seemed to come from all sides; he looked about and 
saw no musicians anywhere. While that melody 
wafted into his soul the azure poesy and distant 
gleams of hope, it also increased the activity of the 
remorse which tormented the doomed man, who 
went about Paris as men go who are crushed by 
sorrow. He looked at everything and saw nothing, 
he walked at random after the manner of idlers; he 
stopped for no cause, talked to himself, and took no 
pains to avoid being struck by a board or the wheel 
of a carriage. Repentance insensibly delivered him 
over to that grace which crushes the heart gently 
and at the same time pitilessly. Soon there was in 
his face, as in Melmoth's, a something grand, but 
distraught; a cold, disconsolate expression like that of 
a man in despair, and the breathless eagerness born 
of hope; and, over and above all else, his heart was 
filled with disgust for all the good things of this in- 
ferior world. His glance, terrifying in its keenness, 



MELMOTH CONVERTED 93 

concealed the most humble prayers. He suffered 
in proportion to his power. His soul, violently 
agitated, forced his body to bend, as a fierce wind 
bends the lofty firs. No more than his predecessor 
could he refuse to live, for he did not wish to die 
under the yoke of hell. His punishment became 
unendurable to him. At last, one morning, it oc- 
curred to him that Melmoth of blessed memory had 
suggested to him that he take his place and that he 
had accepted; that other men could undoubtedly be 
found who would do as he had done; and that, at an 
epoch whose fatal indifference in religious matters 
was loudly proclaimed by the inheritors of the elo- 
quence of the Fathers of the Church, he ought easily 
to find a man who would agree to the stipulations of 
the contract in order to reap its advantages. 

" There is a place where the value of kings is 
quoted, where nations are weighed, where systems 
are compared, where governments are measured by 
the crown of a hundred sous, where ideas and creeds 
are appraised, where everything is discounted, where 
God himself borrows and pledges his income in souls 
as surety, for the Pope has an account current there. 
If I can find a soul for sale anywhere, is not that the 
place?" 

Castanier joyously bent his steps to the Bourse, 
thinking that he could traffic in a soul there as in the 
public funds. An ordinary man would have been 
afraid of being laughed at; but Castanier knew by 
experience that everything wears a serious aspect to 
the man in despair. Like the condemned felon who 



94 MELMOTH CONVERTED 

would listen to a madman if he should tell him that 
by pronouncing certain absurd words he could fly 
away through the keyhole, the man who suffers is 
credulous and does not abandon an idea until it has 
failed, as the branch breaks in the hand of the drown- 
ing man. About four o'clock, Castanier made his 
appearance among the groups formed, after the close 
of dealings in public securities, for trading in private 
shares and for negotiating purely commercial trans- 
actions. He was acquainted with several merchants, 
and, by pretending to be in search of someone, was 
able to listen to the current rumors concerning men 
in embarrassed circumstances. 

" Let me know, my boy, when I discount any of 
Claparon and Company's paper for you! They let 
the messenger from the Bank carry back their notes 
that came due this morning," said a stout banker in 
his blunt language. " If you have any of it, keep 
it!" 

This Claparon was in the courtyard, talking ear- 
nestly with a man who was known to discount notes 
at usurious rates. Castanier at once walked toward 
them. 

Claparon was a speculator noted for taking the 
chances of bold ventures which might ruin him as 
well as enrich him. When Castanier approached 
him, the money-lender had just left him and the 
speculator had allowed a gesture of despair to escape 
him. 

" Well, Claparon, so we have a hundred thousand 
francs to pay at the Bank, and here it is four o'clock; 



MELMOTH CONVERTED 95 

everybody knows it, and we have no time to arrange 
our little failure," said Castanier. 

" Monsieur!" 

" Speak lower," rejoined the cashier. " Suppose 
I should suggest a transaction in which you could 
pick up as much gold as you wanted?" 

" It wouldn't pay my debts, for I don't know of 
any sort of a transaction that doesn't require time 
to cook." 

" I know of one that would enable you to pay 
them in a moment," replied Castanier, " but which 
would require you to " 

"To what?" 

" To sell your interest in paradise. Isn't that as 
legitimate a trade as any other? We are all stock- 
holders in the great enterprise of eternity." 

" Do you know that I'm just in the mood to horse- 
whip you?" said Claparon, angrily; " it isn't fair to 
crack foolish jokes on a man who is down!" 

" I am speaking seriously," rejoined Castanier, 
taking a package of bank-notes from his pocket. 

" In the first place," said Claparon, " I won't sell 
my soul to the devil for a trifle. I need five hundred 
thousand francs to go " 

"Who talks of being niggardly?" retorted Cas- 
tanier, sharply. " You shall have more money than 
the Bank vaults will hold." 

He held out a pile of notes which decided the 
speculator. 

"Done!" said he. "But how do we arrange 
it?" 



Cj6 MELMOTH CONVERTED 

" Come over yonder where there isn't anybody," 
said Castanier, pointing to a corner of the court- 
yard. 

Claparon and his tempter exchanged a few words, 
each with his face turned toward the wall. None 
of those who had noticed them guessed the object of 
that private conference, although their curiosity was 
keenly aroused by the extraordinary character of the 
gestures made by the two contracting parties. When 
Castanier returned, the bystanders uttered loud ex- 
clamations of amazement. As in all assemblages of 
Frenchmen, where the slightest incident attracts at- 
tention at once, all faces were turned toward the 
two men who were the cause of the excitement; 
and not without a feeling of horror did they observe 
the change that had taken place in them. At the 
Bourse, it is the common custom for brokers to walk 
about as they converse, so that everybody who is in 
the crowd is soon seen and observed, for the Bourse 
is like a large bouillotte table, where the skilful 
players are able to detect a man's style of play and 
the condition of his purse from his face. So it was 
that everyone had noticed Claparon's face and Cas- 
tanier's. The latter, like the Irishman, was nervous 
and forceful, his eyes shone, his complexion was 
clear. Everyone had been amazed at that majesti- 
cally terrible countenance and had wondered where 
worthy Castanier had obtained it; but Castanier, 
stripped of his power, was a faded, wrinkled, feeble, 
prematurely old man. When he led Claparon away, 
he was like a sick man in an attack of fever, or like 



MELMOTH CONVERTED 97 

a theriaki in the momentary exaltation caused by 
opium; but, when he returned, he was in the state 
of prostration which follows fever and during which 
sick men expire, or else in the terrible depression 
caused by excessive indulgence in narcotics. The 
demoniacal spirit that had enabled him to endure his 
wild debauches had disappeared; the body was left 
alone, exhausted, without support, without protec- 
tion against the assaults of remorse and the weight 
of true repentance. Claparon, whose mental suffer- 
ing everyone had understood, reappeared, on the 
contrary, with gleaming eyes and the pride of Luci- 
fer on his face. Bankruptcy had passed from one 
face to the other. 

" Go and die in peace, old boy," said Claparon to 
Castanier. 

" In pity's name, send for a carriage for me and a 
priest, the vicar of Saint-Sulpice!" replied the ex- 
dragoon, sitting down on a stone. 

The words " a priest" were overheard by several 
persons and aroused a sneering murmur from the 
brokers, a class of men whose only faith consists in 
the belief that a bit of paper called a certificate is 
worth a domain. The register of the public debt 
is their Bible. 

"Shall I have time to repent? "said Castanier 
in a piteous voice that made a deep impression on 
Claparon. 

A cab carried away the moribund. The speculator 
went at once to pay his notes at the Bank. The 
impression produced by the sudden change of face 
7 



98 MELMOTH CONVERTED 

between the two men faded away in the crowd as 
the wake of a ship fades away on the sea. News 
of the utmost importance aroused the attention of the 
business world. At that hour, when every selfish 
interest is at stake, Moses, appearing with his two 
luminous horns, would hardly obtain the honors of a 
pun, and would be denied by men preparing to make 
reports. When Claparon had paid his notes, he was 
stricken with dread. He was convinced of his 
power, returned to the Bourse, and offered his bar- 
gain to other embarrassed traders. "The invest- 
ment in the consols of hell, with the privileges 
attached to the enjoyment thereof," according to the 
expression of a notary whom Claparon made his 
successor, brought seven hundred thousand francs. 
The notary sold the treaty with the devil for five 
hundred thousand to a building contractor, who dis- 
posed of it for three hundred thousand to an iron- 
monger; and he passed it on to a carpenter for two 
hundred thousand. At last, about five o'clock, no 
one believed in the strange contract, and purchasers 
were shy from lack of faith. 

At half-past five, the owner was a house-painter, 
who was standing near the door of the temporary 
Bourse, then located on Rue Feydeau. This house- 
painter, a simple-minded creature, did not know 
what he had within him. " It was everything," he 
said to his wife, when he went home. 

Rue Feydeau is, as all idlers know, one of those 
streets beloved of young men who, in default of a 
mistress, marry the whole sex. On the first floor 



MELMOTH CONVERTED 99 

of the most commonplace and respectable of houses, 
dwelt one of those ravishing creatures whom Heaven 
delights to overburden with the rarest charms, and 
who, as they cannot be duchesses or queens, because 
there are more pretty women than titles or thrones, 
content themselves with a banker or a broker, whom 
they make happy at a stated price. This excellent 
and lovely maiden, called Euphrasie, was the object 
of the ambition of a notary's clerk whose ambition 
was immeasurable. In truth, this second clerk of 
Maitre Crottat, notary, was in love with that woman 
as young men are wont to be in love at twenty-two. 
He would have murdered the Pope and the whole 
college of cardinals to procure a paltry hundred louis 
which were required by Euphrasie for the purchase 
of a shawl which had turned her head, and in ex- 
change for which sum her maid had promised her to 
the clerk. The lovelorn youth paced back and forth 
in front of Madame Euphrasie's windows, like the 
white bears in their cages at the Jardin des Plantes. 
He had thrust his right hand under his waistcoat, 
over his left breast, and was trying to tear out his 
heart, but had succeeded only in twisting the elastics 
of his suspenders. 

" What can I do to get ten thousand francs?" he 
was saying to himself. " Take the money I am to 
carry with me when that deed is registered? Great 
God ! that loan won't ruin the purchaser, he's a mil- 
lionaire seven times over! To-morrow I will throw 
myself at his feet, and say: ' Monsieur, I have taken 
ten thousand francs of yours, I am twenty -two years 



100 MELMOTH CONVERTED 

old, and I love Euphrasie that's my story. My 
father is rich, he will pay you the money, don't ruin 
me! Haven't you ever been twenty-two years old 
and mad with love?' But these miserly landowners 
have no souls! He's quite capable of turning me 
over to the king's attorney instead of being touched. 
Sacredieu I if one could only sell his soul to the devil ! 
But there's no God or devil either, they're all fiddle- 
faddle, you never hear of them except in blue books 
and from old women. What shall I do?" 

" If you choose to sell your soul to the devil," 
said the house-painter, who had overheard some of 
the clerk's words, "you will have ten thousand 
francs." 

"Then I shall have Euphrasie," said the clerk, 
grasping at the bargain proposed to him by the devil 
in the guise of a house-painter. 

The compact consummated, the frantic clerk went 
and bought the shawl, rushed up to Madame Eu- 
phrasie's apartment, and, as he had the devil in 
him, he remained there twelve days without once 
going out, squandering all his paradise there, think- 
ing only of love and its orgies, in which the memory 
of hell and its privileges was submerged. 

Thus was the extraordinary power acquired by the 
discovery of the Irishman, the offspring of the rev- 
erend Mathurin, destroyed. 

It was impossible for certain orientalists, mystics, 
and archaeologists interested in such matters to de- 
cide upon the method of invoking the demon. For 
this reason: 



MELMOTH CONVERTED IOI 

On the thirteenth day of his insane nuptials, the 
poor clerk lay on his pallet in an attic in his em- 
ployer's house on Rue Saint- Honore. Shame, that 
stupid goddess who dares not look at herself, took 
possession of the young man, who fell sick ; he 
attempted to doctor himself, and made a mistake in 
the dose of a curative drug which we owe to the 
genius of a man well known on the walls of Paris. 
So the clerk died from an overdose of quicksilver, 
and his dead body turned as black as a mole's back. 
Some devil had certainly passed that way, but what 
one? Was it Astaroth? 

" This estimable young man has been taken to 
the planet Mercury," said the chief clerk to a 
German demonologist who came to investigate the 
affair. 

" I can readily believe it," said the German. 

"Ah!" 

"Yes, monsieur," he continued, "that opinion ac- 
cords with Jacob Boehm's own words in his forty- 
eighth proposition concerning the Threefold Life of 
Man, wherein it is said that 'if God accomplishes 
all things by his FIAT, the FIAT is the secret matrix 
which comprehends and grasps the nature formed 
by the spirit born of Mercury and God.' " 

" I beg your pardon, monsieur?" 

The German repeated his citation. 

" We don't understand," said the clerks. 

" Fiat! " said one of them, "fiat lux! " 

"You can satisfy yourselves of the accuracy of 
this citation," said the German, "by reading the 



102 MELMOTH CONVERTED 

passage, on page 75, of the Threefold Life of Man, 
published in 1809 by Monsieur Migneret, and trans- 
lated by a philosopher, a great admirer of the illus- 
trious cobbler." 

"Ah! he was a cobbler, was he?" said the chief 
clerk. "Think of that!" 

" In Prussia!" replied the German. 

" Did he work for the king?" asked an unlettered 
second clerk. 

" He ought to have put patches on his sentences," 
said the third clerk. 

"That man is pyramidal !" cried the fourth clerk, 
pointing to the German. 

Although he was a demonologist of the first order, 
the stranger did not know what mischievous devils 
clerks are; he went away, not understanding their 
jests, and convinced that those young men consid- 
ered Boehm a pyramidal genius. 

"There is education in France," he said to him- 
self. 

Paris, May 6, 1835. 



THE ELIXIR OF LONG LIFE 



TO THE READER 

At the outset of the author's literary life, a friend long since 
dead suggested to him the subject of this Study, which he 
subsequently found in a collection of stories published about 
the beginning of this century; and, according to his conjec- 
ture, it is a fantastic creation written by Hoffman, of Berlin, 
probably published in some German almanac, and overlooked 
by his publishers in collecting his works. The HUMAN 
COMEDY is sufficiently rich in original inventions for the 
author to avow an innocent plagiarism ; like honest La Fon- 
taine, he has treated in his own way, and unwittingly, a tale 
already told. This was not one of the varieties of humor 
fashionable in 1830, a period when every author did the atro- 
cious to amuse young girls. When you reach Don Juan's 
refined parricide, try to guess how, under almost identical cir- 
cumstances, the honest folk would behave, who, in the nine- 
teenth century, take an annuity on the strength of a chronic 
catarrh, or those who let a house to an old woman for the rest 
of her days? Would they try to bring their tenants to life? I 
should be very glad if sworn weighers of consciences would 
examine the question of what similarity there can possibly be 
between Don Juan and those fathers who give their children 
in marriage because of hopes. Does human society, which is 
advancing in the path of progress, according to the view of 
some philosophers, consider the art of waiting for dead men's 
shoes a step in the right direction ? That art has given birth 
to honorable professions, by means of which men live on 
death. It is the business of certain people to hope for some- 
body's death, they brood over it, they squat on a dead body 
every morning and use it for a pillow at night : they are the 
coadjutors, the cardinals, the supernumeraries, tontine holders, 
etc. Add to these, many persons of delicate sensibilities, who 
(105) 



106 THE ELIXIR OF LONG LIFE 

are anxious to buy an estate the price of which exceeds their 
means, but who coolly and logically reckon the chances of life 
remaining to their fathers, mothers-in-law, septuagenarians or 
octogenarians, saying: "Within three years, I must neces- 
sarily inherit, and then " A murderer disgusts us less than 
a spy. The murderer may have yielded to an impulse of 
frenzy, he may repent, become a noble man. But the spy is 
always a spy: he is a spy at table, on his promenades, in bed, 
night and day; he is vile every instant. What would it be, 
then, to be a murderer as vile as a spy ! But have you not dis- 
covered, in the heart of our society, a multitude of creatures led 
by our laws, by our morals, by our customs, to think inces- 
santly about the death of their kindred, to long for it? They 
consider the value of a coffin as they haggle over the price of 
shawls for their wives, as they ascend the staircase at the 
theatre, as they think longingly of the Bouffons, as they wish 
that they owned a carriage. They are committing murder at 
the very moment when dear little creatures, fascinating in 
their innocence, offer their infantile lips to be kissed, saying : 
" Good-night, father! " Every hour in the day they see eyes 
that they would like to close, but which open every morning 
to the light, like Belvidero's in this Study. God only knows 
of how many parricides they are guilty in thought ! Imagine 
a man having to pay an annuity of three thousand francs to 
an old woman, and both of them living in the country, sepa- 
rated by a brook, but so far strangers that they can hate each 
other cordially without violating those social proprieties which 
place a mask on the faces of two brothers, one of whom has 
the entail and the other a second son's share. All European 
civilization rests upon HEREDITY as upon a pivot, it would 
be madness to suppress it ; but might we not try, as in the 
case of the machines which are the pride of our age, to perfect 
that all-important mechanism? 

The author's purpose in retaining the old formula, To the 
Reader, at the head of a work in which he aims to represent 
all literary forms, is to place herein a remark relating to sev- 
eral of his Studies, especially to this one. Each one of his 



THE ELIXIR OF LONG LIFE 107 

compositions is based upon ideas more or less new, to which 
it seemed to him that it might be well to give expression ; he 
may insist upon the priority of certain forms and ideas which 
have since passed into the domain of literature and have, in 
some cases, become vulgarized there. The date of the origi- 
nal publication of each Study should not be a matter of indif- 
ference to those of his readers who wish to do him justice. 

Reading gives us unknown friends, and what a friend is a 
reader ! We have friends whom we know who read nothing 
that we write ! The author hopes to have paid his debt by 
dedicating this work to the UNKNOWN GODS. 

In a superb palace at Ferrara, on a winter evening, 
Don Juan Belvidero was entertaining a prince of the 
House of Este. At that period, a banquet was a 
marvellous spectacle which only royal wealth or the 
power of a great nobleman could command. Seated 
about a table lighted by perfumed candles, seven 
hilarious women were conversing pleasantly, amid 
beautiful chefs-d'oeuvres of art whose white marble 
stood out in bold relief against the red stucco of the 
walls and in striking contrast to the rich Turkish 
rugs. Dressed in satin, gleaming with gold and 
laden with precious stones less brilliant than their 
eyes, one and all were telling tales of violent pas- 
sions, differing as widely as the charms of the nar- 
rators. But they differed neither in words nor 
gestures; an expression of the eyes, a glance, a ges- 
ture or two, or the tone of voice, served as commen- 
taries, lascivious, riotous, melancholy, or cunning, 
upon their words. 

One seemed to say: "My beauty is of the sort 
that warms an old man's frozen heart." 



108 THE ELIXIR OF LONG LIFE 

Another: " I love to lie on cushions and think with 
ecstasy of those who adore me." 

A third, a novice at such functions, was inclined to 
blush: " In the bottom of my heart I feel remorse!" 
she said. " I am a Catholic, and I am afraid of hell. 
But I love you so dearly, oh! so dearly, and so 
dearly, that I can sacrifice eternity to you." 

A fourth, emptying a cup of Chio wine, cried: 
"Vive la gaietel I begin a new life every morning! 
Oblivious of the past, still drunken from the joys of 
the preceding day, every night I exhaust a life of 
happiness, a life full of love!" 

The woman sitting beside Belvidero gazed at him 
with flashing eyes. She was silent. " I would not 
trust to hired bravoes to kill my lover if he abandoned 
me!" Then she had laughed; but her hand convul- 
sively crushed a sweetmeat-box of exquisitely carved 
gold. 

"When will you be Grand Duke?" the sixth 
woman asked the prince, with an expression of 
murderous joy in her teeth, and the delirium of wine 
in her eyes. 

"And when will your father die?" laughed the 
seventh, tossing her bouquet to Don Juan with a 
gesture intoxicating in its wantonness. She was an 
innocent girl, accustomed to make sport of all sacred 
things. 

"Oh! do not speak of it!" cried the young and 
handsome Don Juan Belvidero; "there is but one 
everlasting father in the world, and cruel fate de- 
creed that I should have him!" 



THE ELIXIR OF LONG LIFE 109 

The seven courtesans of Ferrara, Don Juan's 
friends, and the prince himself uttered a cry of 
horror. Two hundred years later, under Louis XV., 
people of refined taste would have laughed at that 
sally. But it may be that, at the beginning of a de- 
bauch, their minds were still too lucid. Despite the 
flame of the candles, the outcry of the passions, the 
sight of gold and silver vessels, the fumes of wine, 
despite the contemplation of the most ravishingly 
beautiful women, perhaps there still survived, in the 
depths of their hearts, a little of that shamefaced re- 
spect for things human and divine which struggles 
on until revelry has drowned it in the last waves 
of sparkling wine. Nevertheless, the flowers were 
already crushed, eyes were beginning to glare wildly, 
and drunkenness was making its way, as Rabelais 
expresses it, even to the sandals. During that 
momentary pause, a door opened; and, as at the 
feast of Belshazzar, God made himself manifest in 
the person of an old servant, with white hair, trem- 
bling footsteps, and wrinkled brow; he entered the 
room with melancholy mien, cast a withering glance 
at the garlands, the silver-gilt cups, the pyramids 
of fruit, the splendor of the banquet, the purple 
flush upon the astonished faces, and the brilliant 
colors of the cushions crushed by the white arms 
of women; then he cast a pall upon the riotous 
assemblage by uttering in a hollow voice the fateful 
words: 

"Signore, your father is dying!" 

Don Juan rose, with a wave of the hand to his 



1 10 THE ELIXIR OF LONG LIFE 

guests which might be translated: " Excuse me, this 
doesn't happen every day." 

Does not a father's death often surprise young 
people amid the splendors of life, amid the insane 
ideas of a debauch? Death is' as abrupt in her 
caprices as a courtesan in her disdain, but more 
faithful it never deceives anyone. 

When Don Juan had closed the door of the ban- 
quet-hall and was walking along a cold, unlighted 
corridor, he forced himself to assume a theatrical 
expression of grief; for, reflecting upon his role of 
son, he had cast his merriment aside with his nap- 
kin. The night was very dark. The silent servant 
who led the young man toward the mortuary cham- 
ber lighted his master but dimly, so that DEATH, 
seconded by the cold, the silence, the darkness, by 
the reaction after drunkenness, perhaps, was able to 
insinuate a few thoughts into that rake's mind; he 
reviewed his past life, and became as pensive as a 
man under indictment on his way to the courtroom. 

Bartholomeo Belvidero, Don Juan's father, was an 
old man of ninety, who had passed the greater part 
of his life in active commercial pursuits. Having 
often travelled in the talismanic countries of the 
Orient, he had amassed immense wealth there and 
had acquired knowledge far more precious, he said, 
than gold and diamonds, for which he cared but little. 
" I prefer a tooth to a ruby, and power to learning!" 
he would sometimes exclaim, with a smile. That 
excellent father loved to have Don Juan tell him of 
some youthful escapade, and would say to him, with 



THE ELIXIR OF LONG LIFE III 

a cunning leer, as he lavished gold upon him: " My 
dear child, do nothing but the foolish things that 
amuse you." He was the only old man who ever 
took pleasure in looking at a young man; paternal 
affection enabled him to forget his own decay by 
contemplating such lusty life. At the age of sixty, 
Belvidero had fallen in love with an angel of peace 
and beauty. Don Juan was the only fruit of that 
belated and ephemeral passion. For fifteen years 
the goodman had bewailed the loss of his dear 
Juana. His numerous servants and his son attrib- 
uted to his sorrow the strange habits he had con- 
tracted. Taking refuge in the least accessible wing 
of his palace, Bartholomeo very rarely left it, and 
even Don Juan could not gain admission to his father's 
apartments without having first obtained leave. If 
that self-willed anchorite walked about the palace or 
in the streets of Ferrara, he seemed to be seeking 
something that he wanted; he walked dreamily, 
with indecision, preoccupied like a man at war with 
an idea or a memory. While the young man gave 
sumptuous entertainments and the palace echoed 
with the outbursts of his mirth, while horses pawed 
the earth in the courtyard, and pages quarrelled over 
their dice on the steps, Bartholomeo ate seven ounces 
of bread per day and drank water. If he asked for 
a little chicken, it was for the purpose of giving the 
bones to a black spaniel, his faithful companion. He 
never complained of the noise. When he was ill, 
if the sound of the horn and the barking of dogs 
disturbed his sleep, he would simply say: "Ah! Don 



112 THE ELIXIR OF LONG LIFE 

Juan has returned !" Never on this earth was so 
unobtrusive and indulgent a father known; and 
young Belvidero, being accustomed to treat him 
without ceremony, had all the faults of spoiled 
children; he lived with Bartholomeo as a capricious 
courtesan lives with an aged lover, obtaining pardon 
for an impertinence by a smile, selling her good 
humor, and allowing herself to be loved. 

As he mentally reconstructed the picture of his 
youthful years, Don Juan realized that it would be 
very hard to find a flaw in his father's kindness. 
Listening to a remorseful feeling that sprang to life 
deep down in his heart, as he walked along the 
corridor, he felt that he was almost ready to forgive 
Belvidero for having lived so long. He opened his 
heart to sentiments of filial affection, as a thief be- 
comes an honest man by virtue of the prospective 
enjoyment of a million, safely hidden away. Soon 
the young man entered the bare, high-studded rooms 
that composed his father's suite. Oppressed by the 
damp atmosphere, breathing the dense air, the musty 
odor exhaled by old tapestries and dust-covered cup- 
boards, he found himself in the old man's old-fashioned 
bedroom, beside a disgustingly filthy bed and a dying 
fire. A lamp that stood on a Gothic table cast, at 
unequal intervals, a flickering light of varying bril- 
liancy upon the bed, and thus exhibited the old 
man's face in constantly changing aspects. The 
wind whistled through the rattling window-frames, 
and the snow beat upon the panes with a dull sound. 
The scene presented such a violent contrast to that 



THE ELIXIR OF LONG LIFE 113 

which Don Juan had just left, that he could not re- 
press a sudden start. Then he turned cold when, 
on drawing near the bed, a sudden flare of light, 
caused by a gust of wind, illumined his father's 
face: the features were distorted, the skin, drawn 
tight over the bones, had a greenish tinge, which the 
whiteness of the pillow on which the old man's head 
lay rendered even more ghastly; the toothless mouth, 
drawn by pain and partly open, emitted an occasional 
deep sigh, lugubrious to the last degree, and prolonged 
by the howling of the gale. Despite those indications 
of dissolution, an indescribable expression of power 
shone upon that face. A powerful mind was con- 
tending there with death. The eyes, hollowed by 
disease, maintained a strange fixity of expression. 
It seemed as if Bartholomeo were trying to slay, 
with his dying glance, an enemy seated at the foot 
of his bed. That glance, cold and unwavering, was 
the more terrifying to behold, in that the head 
was as absolutely motionless as a skull on a physi- 
cian's table. The body and the limbs, whose out- 
lines could be followed beneath the bedclothes, were 
equally rigid. Everything was dead except the eyes. 
There was something mechanical in the sounds that 
issued from the mouth. 

Don Juan was somewhat ashamed to appear at 
his dying father's bedside with a courtesan's bou- 
quet in his bosom and to bring thither the perfumes 
of the banquet and the fumes of wine. 

" You were enjoying yourself !" cried the old man 
when he perceived his son. 
8 



114 THE ELIXIR OF LONG LIFE 

At the same moment, the clear, pure voice of a 
woman singing for the entertainment of the guests, 
supported by the chords of a viol upon which she 
accompanied herself, drowned the howling of the 
storm and penetrated to the chamber of death. Don 
Juan tried not to listen to that brutal confirmation of 
his father's words. 

" I do not reproach you, my child," said Barthol- 
omeo. 

Those gentle words stung Don Juan to the quick; 
he could not forgive his father for that poignant 
kindness. 

"How full of remorse I am, father!" he said, 
hypocritically. 

"Poor Juanino," replied the dying man, in a 
hollow voice, " I have always been so indulgent 
to you, that you could not wish for my death, could 
you?" 

" Oh!" cried Don Juan, " if only it were possible 
to restore your life by giving up a part of my own! 
One can always say that sort of thing with safety," 
thought the rake; " it's as if I should offer my mis- 
tress the whole world !" 

He had hardly completed that reflection when the 
old spaniel barked. That intelligent voice made 
Don Juan shudder, he believed that the dog had 
read his thoughts. 

" I was sure that I could rely upon you, my son!" 
cried the moribund. " I shall live. Your wish shall 
be gratified, I say. I shall live, but without depriv- 
ing you of a single day that belongs to you." 



THE ELIXIR OF LONG LIFE 11$ 

" He is delirious," said Don Juan to himself. 
"Yes, my dearest father," he added, aloud, "of a 
certainty, you will live as long as I do, for your 
image will always be in my heart." 

" I am not referring to that life," said the old 
nobleman, collecting his strength to sit up in bed, 
for he was seized by one of those suspicions which 
are born only beneath the pillows of dying men. 
" Hark ye, my son," he continued, in a voice weak- 
ened by this last effort, "I am no more anxious to 
die than you are to do without mistresses, wine, 
horses, falcons, dogs, and gold." 

" I can well believe it," thought the son, kneel- 
ing at the bedside and kissing one of Bartholomeo's 
cadaverous hands. "But," he said, aloud, "we 
must bow to God's will, my dear father." 

"I am God!" mumbled the old man. 

"Do not blaspheme!" cried the youth, when he 
saw the menacing expression assumed by his father's 
features. "Beware of blaspheming, for you have 
received extreme unction, and I could never be com- 
forted if I knew that you had died in a state of sin." 

"Will you listen to me?" cried the dying man, 
gnashing his teeth. 

Don Juan held his peace. A ghastly silence 
reigned in the room. Amid the dull hissing of the 
snow, the strains of the viol and the lovely voice 
still reached their ears, faint as the first glimmer of 
dawn. The moribund smiled. 

" I thank you for inviting singers, for bringing 
music with you! A banquet, young and lovely 



Il6 THE ELIXIR OF LONG LIFE 

women, soft and white, with black hair! all the 
pleasures of life. Bid them remain, I am about to 
be born again." 

" The delirium is at its height," said Don Juan to 
himself. 

" I have discovered a means of renewing life. 
Look in the table-drawer, you can open it by press- 
ing a spring hidden by the griffin." 

"I have it, father." 

" Very well, take a small phial of rock-crystal." 

" Here it is." 

" I have spent twenty years " 

At that moment, the old man felt that his end was 
approaching, and he summoned all his strength to 
say: 

"As soon as I have drawn my last breath, you 
will rub me with that water from head to foot; I 
shall come to life again." 

"There's very little of it," rejoined the young 
man. 

Although Bartholomeo could no longer speak, he 
was still able to see and hear; at those words, he 
turned his head toward Don Juan with a frightfully 
sudden movement, his neck remained twisted like 
that of a statue which the sculptor's fancy has con- 
demned to look sidewise, and his eyes became fixed 
in a hideous stare. He was dead, dead at the 
moment of losing his last, his only illusion. Upon 
seeking a sure refuge in his son's heart, he found 
there a grave deeper than men are accustomed to 
give their dead. Hence his hair stood erect in horror, 



THE ELIXIR OF LONG LIFE 1 17 

and his convulsive glance still spoke. He was a 
father rising in a frenzy from his sepulchre to de- 
mand vengeance at the hand of God. 

" Well, it is all over with the good man at last!" 
cried Don Juan. 

In his haste to examine the mysterious phial by 
the light of the lamp, as a toper consults his bottle 
at the end of his repast, he had not seen his father's 
eye blanch. The panting dog looked alternately at 
his dead master and the elixir, just as Don Juan 
looked from his father to the phial. The lamp cast 
a flickering light. The silence was profound, the 
viol mute. Belvidero started, fancying that he saw 
his father move. Terrified by the rigid expression 
of the accusing eyes, he closed them, as he would 
have closed a blind that was banging in the wind on 
an autumn night. He stood motionless as a statue, 
lost in a whole world of reflections. Suddenly a 
shrill sound like the shriek of a key in a rusty lock 
broke the silence. Don Juan, in his surprise, nearly 
dropped the phial. A sweat colder than the blade of 
a dagger issued from every pore. A painted wooden 
cock arose above a clock and crowed three times. 
It was one of those ingenious pieces of mechanism 
by whose aid the scientists of that day were awak- 
ened in the morning at the hour when their labors 
were to begin. Already the first flush of dawn was 
reddening the window-panes. Don Juan had passed 
ten hours in reflection. The old clock was more 
faithful in its service than he was in performing his 
duties toward Bartholomeo. Its mechanism consisted 



Il8 THE ELIXIR OF LONG LIFE 

of wood, pulleys, cords, and wheels, whereas he had 
the mechanism peculiar to man, called a heart. In 
order to avoid further risk of losing the mysterious 
liquid, the sceptical Don Juan replaced it in the 
drawer of the little Gothic table. At that solemn 
moment, he heard an uproar in the corridors; there 
were confused voices, stifled laughter, light steps, 
the rustling of silk in a word, the noise of a joyous 
party trying to find its way. The door opened, and 
the prince, Don Juan's friends, the seven courtesans, 
and the musicians appeared in the doorway, in the 
fantastic disorder of dancers surprised by the break 
of day, when the sun is contending for the mastery 
with the paling flames of the candles. They all 
came to offer the young heir the customary con- 
dolences. 

" Oho! can it be that Don Juan takes this affair 
seriously?" said the prince in La Brambilla's ear. 

"Why, his father was a very good man," she 
replied. 

Meanwhile, Don Juan's nocturnal meditations had 
imparted to his features an expression so striking 
that it imposed silence on the party. The men 
stood motionless. The women, whose lips were 
parched with wine, whose cheeks were blotched by 
kisses, knelt and began to pray. Don Juan could not 
repress a shudder as he saw splendor, joy, laughter, 
singing, youth, beauty, power, the whole of life pros- 
trating itself thus in the presence of death. But, in 
that adorable Italy, debauchery and religion worked 
so well together in those days, that religion was a 



THE ELIXIR OF LONG LIFE 119 

debauch, and debauchery a religion ! The prince 
warmly pressed Don Juan's hand ; then, every 
face having assumed at the same moment an iden- 
tical grimace, expressive of sorrow and indifference 
in equal parts, the phantasmagoria disappeared, 
leaving the room empty. It was a faithful image of 
life! 

As they went down the steps, the prince said to 
La Rivabarella: 

" Well, well ! who'd have believed that Don Juan 
would be such an impious braggart? He loves his 
father!" 

" Did you notice the black dog?" asked La Bram- 
billa. 

" Well, he's immensely rich now," observed Bi- 
anca Cavatolino, with a sigh. 

"What care 1!" cried the proud Veronese, she 
who had crushed the sweetmeat-box. 

"What care you, say you?" cried the duke. 
"With his ducats he's as much a prince as I!" 

At first, Don Juan, swayed by a multitude of con- 
flicting thoughts, wavered between several alterna- 
tives. Having taken counsel of the treasure amassed 
by his father, he returned toward evening to the 
death-chamber, his soul heavy with revolting selfish- 
ness. He found all the retainers of the household 
engaged in putting together the decorations of the 
bed upon which the late monsignore was to lie in 
state on the morrow in the centre of a superb mortu- 
ary chamber a curious spectacle, which all Ferrara 
was expected to see and admire. Don Juan made 



120 THE ELIXIR OF LONG LIFE 

a gesture, and his servants paused in their work, 
abashed and trembling. 

"Leave me here alone," he said in an altered 
voice; " you will not return until I am gone." 

When the footsteps of the old servant, who was 
the last to go, had died away in the distance, Don 
Juan hurriedly closed and locked the door, and, sure 
that he was alone, exclaimed : 

" Let us try!" 

Bartholomeo's body lay upon a long table. To 
conceal from all eyes the revolting spectacle of a 
dead body which, because of its extreme decrepitude 
and gauntness, resembled a skeleton, the embalmers 
had spread over it a cloth which enveloped it com- 
pletely, except the head. The mummy-like object 
lay in the centre of the room, and the cloth, naturally 
pliable, marked vaguely the rigid, angular, and ema- 
ciated outlines of the figure. The face was already 
marked by large violet blotches which indicated the 
necessity of finishing the embalming process. Despite 
the scepticism with which he was armed, Don Juan 
trembled as he uncorked the magic phial. When he 
stood beside the head, he was obliged to wait a 
moment, he trembled so. But that young man had 
been, in his early youth, cunningly corrupted by the 
morals of a dissolute court; so that a reflection 
worthy of the Duke of Urbino inspired him with a 
courage which was quickened by a feeling of the 
keenest curiosity; indeed, it seemed as if the evil one 
himself had whispered to him these words, which 
echoed in his heart: Moisten one eye! He took a 



THE ELIXIR OF LONG LIFE 121 

piece of linen, and, after moistening it sparingly in 
the precious liquid, he touched lightly the right eyelid 
of the corpse. The eye opened. 

"Aha!" exclaimed Don Juan, grasping the phial 
as, in a dream, we grasp the branch from which we 
are suspended over a precipice. 

He saw an eye sparkling with life, a child's eye 
in a death's-head, the light trembled in the clear 
aqueous fluid; and, sheltered by two black lashes, it 
sparkled like the solitary lights the traveller spies 
on a winter's night in a lonely country-side. That 
flashing eye seemed to long to spring at Don Juan, 
and it thought, spoke, accused, tried, condemned, 
threatened ; it cried aloud and bit. All the human 
passions were astir in it. There were the most 
loving entreaties, a kingly wrath, the love of a 
maiden craving mercy from her executioners; and, 
lastly, the profound, meaning glance which a man 
ascending the steps leading to the scaffold casts upon 
his fellow-man. Such abundant life shone in that 
fragment of life that Don Juan recoiled in dismay; 
he paced back and forth, afraid to look at that eye, 
which glared at him from the floor, from the hang- 
ings. The room was studded with gleaming points, 
full of fire, life, intelligence. On all sides were 
blazing eyes that barked at his heels. 

" He might have lived another hundred years," 
he exclaimed involuntarily, as he stood gazing at 
that luminous spark, drawn back to his father's side 
by a diabolical influence. 

Suddenly the intelligent eye closed and opened 



122 THE ELIXIR OF LONG LIFE 

again rapidly, like the eye of a woman who con- 
sents. Had a voice said: "Yes!" Don Juan would 
have been no more frightened. 

"What shall I do?" he thought. 

He mustered courage to try to close the white lid. 
His efforts were unavailing. 

" Shall I put it out? Perhaps that would be parri- 
cide?" he said to himself. 

"Yes," said the eye, with a wink of ghastly 
irony. 

"Aha!" cried Don Juan, "there's witchcraft in 
it." 

He put out his hand to destroy the eye. A great 
tear rolled down the hollow cheeks of the corpse and 
fell upon Belvidero's hand. 

"It is burning hot!" he cried, throwing himself 
upon a chair. 

The struggle had fatigued him as if, like Jacob, he 
had been contending against an angel. 

At last, he rose, saying: 

" If only there is no blood !" 

Then, summoning all the courage that one requires 
to do a cowardly deed, he destroyed the eye, forcing 
it out with a cloth, but without looking at it. An un- 
expected but heart-rending groan startled him. The 
poor spaniel expired howling. 

"Can he be in the secret?" said Don Juan to 
himself, gazing at the faithful animal. 

Don Juan Belvidero was esteemed a dutiful son. 
He erected a monument of white marble on his 
father's tomb, and entrusted the execution of the 



THE ELIXIR OF LONG LIFE 123 

figures to the most famous artists of the time. He 
was not perfectly at ease on the day when the 
statue of his father kneeling at the feet of Religion 
imposed its enormous weight upon the grave at the 
bottom of which he buried the only feeling of re- 
morse that had ever touched his heart in moments 
of physical weariness. By dint of gloating over the 
vast wealth amassed by the old merchant, Don Juan 
became miserly: had he not two lives to provide 
with money? His profoundly searching glance 
penetrated to the basic principle of social life, and 
embraced the world the more effectively because he 
viewed it through a tomb. He analyzed men and 
things in order to be done once and for all with the 
past, represented by history; with the present, 
represented by the law; with the future, revealed 
by religion. He took the soul and matter, threw 
them into a crucible, found nothing, and thereupon 
became DON JUAN ! 

Master of life's illusions, he plunged headlong, 
young and handsome as he was, into life, despising 
the world, but taking possession of the world. His 
happiness could not be the bourgeoise felicity that 
feeds upon a dish of boiled beef at stated intervals, 
a comfortable warming-pan in winter, a lamp for the 
evening, and new slippers every quarter. No; he 
seized upon existence as a monkey seizes a nut, 
and, without being entertained for long, he skilfully 
peeled off the vulgar envelopes of the fruit to relish 
the savory pulp. Poetry and the sublime transports 
of human passion no longer appealed to him. He 



124 THE ELIXIR OF LONG LIFE 

did not commit the error of those strong men who, 
fancying sometimes that small minds believe in 
great ones, think of exchanging lofty thoughts of 
the future for the small change of our ephemeral 
ideas. He might, like them, have walked with his 
feet on the earth and his head in the clouds; but he 
preferred to sit and dry with his kisses the lips of 
more than one loving, lovely, and perfumed woman; 
for, like Death, wherever he went he devoured 
everything without shame, desiring the love of ab- 
solute possession, an oriental love, long-enduring, 
unresisting pleasure. Loving woman only in women, 
he made irony the natural bent of his mind. When 
his mistresses made use of a bed to ascend to the 
skies where they proposed to lose themselves in 
the embrace of intoxicating bliss, Don Juan would ac- 
company them, grave, unreserved, and as sincere as 
ever German student could be. But he said /, when 
his mistress, in a frenzy of passion, said WE. He 
was admirably skilled in the art of allowing him- 
self to be drawn on by a woman. He was always 
able to make her believe that he was trembling like 
a young collegian who says to his first partner at a 
ball: " Do you like dancing?" But he also knew 
how to roar on occasion, to draw his mighty sword, 
and crush the commanders. There was mockery 
in his simplicity and laughter in his tears, for he 
could always weep as a woman weeps when she 
says to her husband: " Give me a carriage, or I shall 
die of consumption." In the eyes of merchants, the 
world is a bale of merchandise or a package of notes 



THE ELIXIR OF LONG LIFE 125 

in circulation; to most young men it is a woman; to 
some women it is a man; to certain minds it is a 
salon, a club, a quarter, a city; in Don Juan's eyes, 
the world was himself ! A model of charming and 
noble manners, of fascinating wit, he moored his boat 
to every shore; but, while inviting guidance, he went 
only where he wished to be guided. The more he 
saw, the more he doubted. By scrutinizing men, he 
often divined that courage was rashness; prudence, 
poltroonery; generosity, cunning; justice, a crime; 
delicacy of feeling, mere folly; probity, a matter of 
temperament ; and, by a strange fatality, he dis- 
covered that those persons who were really up- 
right, refined, just, generous, prudent and brave, 
obtained no consideration among men. 

" What sardonic jesting!" he said to himself. 
" It does not come from a God." 

And thereupon, renouncing the idea of a better 
world, he did not bare his head at the mention of 
a name, and looked upon the stone saints in the 
churches simply as works of art. Moreover, being 
familiar with the machinery of human society, he 
never jostled prejudices too rudely, because he was 
not so powerful as the executioner; but he circum- 
vented social laws with the grace and wit so well 
depicted in his scene with Monsieur Dimanche. He 
was, in truth, the perfect type of Moliere's Don Juan, 
of Goethe's Faust, of Byron's Manfred, and of Matu- 
rin's Melmoth. Colossal images drawn by the most 
colossal geniuses of Europe, which, perhaps, Mozart's 
strains will no more fail to illustrate than Rossini's 



126 THE ELIXIR OF LONG LIFE 

lyre! Terrifying images, which the principle of evil, 
existing in man, makes eternal, and of which some 
copies are found in every age: entering into a parley 
with mankind, it may be, as in the case of Mirabeau; 
or content to act in silence, like Bonaparte; or to 
compress the whole world into an ironical phrase, 
like the divine Rabelais; or laughing at persons 
instead of insulting things, like the Marechal de 
Richelieu; or, better still, making sport of men and 
things at the same time, like the most famous of our 
ambassadors. But the profound genius of Don Juan 
Belvidero was a summing up, by anticipation, of all 
those geniuses. He mocked at everything. His life 
was one long mockery, which embraced men, things, 
institutions, ideas. As for eternity, he had talked 
confidentially for half an hour with Pope Julius II., 
and at the close of the conversation he said to him, 
with a laugh: 

"If it is absolutely necessary to choose, I prefer 
to believe in God rather than in the devil ; power 
united to goodness always presents more resources 
than the genius of evil can command." 

" True, but it is God's will that we do penance in 
this world " 

" So you still believe in your indulgences?" replied 
Belvidero. "Very well, I have a whole existence 
in reserve to do penance for the sins of my first 
life." 

"Oh! if that is your understanding of old age," 
cried the Pope, " you are in danger of being canon- 
ized." 



THE ELIXIR OF LONG LIFE 127 

"After your elevation to the papacy, one can be- 
lieve anything." 

And they went to watch the workmen engaged in 
building the immense basilica consecrated to Saint 
Peter. 

"Saint Peter is the man of genius who gave us 
our twofold power," said the Pope to Don Juan, "he 
deserves the monument. But sometimes, at night, 
I think that a deluge will pass a sponge over it and 
we shall be obliged to begin anew." 

Don Juan and the Pope laughed heartily, they had 
understood each other. A fool would have gone the 
next day to seek recreation with Julius II. at Ra- 
phael's house, or at the lovely Villa Madama; but 
Belvidero went to see him officiate as pontiff, in 
order to be relieved of his doubts. In a debauch, 
Rovere might have belied his sacred character and 
commented on the Apocalypse. 

However, this legend was not undertaken to fur- 
nish material for those who may wish to write me- 
moirs of Don Juan's life; its purpose is to prove to 
honest persons that Belvidero did not die in his duel 
with a stone, as some lithographers would have us 
believe. 

When Don Juan Belvidero reached the age of 
sixty, he settled in Spain. There, in his old age, he 
married a young and enchanting Andalusian. But, 
by design, he was neither a good father nor a good 
husband. He had noticed that we are never so 
fondly loved as by the women for whom we care but 
little. Donna Elvire, who had been piously reared 



128 THE ELIXIR OF LONG LIFE 

by an old aunt in the depths of Andalusia, in a 
chateau a few leagues from San-Lucar, was all de- 
votion and all charm. Don Juan rightly guessed that 
she was a woman who would fight long against a 
passion before yielding to it, so he hoped to keep her 
virtuous until his death. It was a serious jest, a 
game of chess which he proposed to play during his 
declining days. Strong in his knowledge of all the 
mistakes made by his father Bartholomeo, Don Juan 
determined to make the most trivial acts of his old 
age assist in the success of the drama that was to be 
enacted beside his death-bed. For instance, the 
greater part of his wealth was buried in the vaults 
of his palace at Ferrara, where he went but rarely. 
As for the other half of his fortune, it was invested 
in an annuity, in order that both his wife and his 
children should be interested in the prolongation of 
his life, a species of trickery which his father would 
have done well to practise; but that species of 
machiavelianism was not very necessary to him. 
Young Philippe Belvidero, his son, grew to be a 
Spaniard as conscientiously religious as his father 
was impious, by virtue, perhaps, of the proverb: 
Miserly father, prodigal son. 

The abbe of San-Lucar was chosen by Don Juan 
to guide the consciences of the Duchess of Belvidero 
and Philippe. That ecclesiastic was a saintly man, 
of fine figure, admirably well-proportioned, with 
handsome black eyes, a head worthy of Tiberius, 
emaciated by fasting, pale from macerations, and 
beset by temptation day after day, as all recluses 



THE ELIXIR OF LONG LIFE 129 

are. The old nobleman hoped, perhaps, that he 
might be able to kill a monk before the end of his 
first lease of life. But, whether it was that the 
abbe was as strong as Don Juan himself, or that 
Donna Elvire had more prudence or more virtue 
than Spain attributes to woman, Don Juan was 
constrained to pass his last days like an old country 
curate, without scandal, at his own fireside. Some- 
times he seemed to enjoy finding his wife or his son 
at fault in respect to their religious duties, and im- 
periously demanded that they execute all the obliga- 
tions imposed on the faithful by the court of Rome. 
Indeed, he was never so happy as when he was 
listening to the gallant abbe of San Lucar, Donna 
Elvire, and Philippe discussing a case of conscience. 
Meanwhile, notwithstanding the prodigious care that 
Don Juan de Belvidero bestowed on his person, the 
days of decrepitude arrived; with that period of dis- 
tress came the outcries of impotence, outcries more 
heart-rending in proportion to his pride in the mem- 
ories of his effervescent youth and voluptuous ma- 
turity. That man, in whose mind the climax of 
mockery consisted in persuading others to believe in 
the laws and principles of which he made sport, fell 
asleep at night upon a perhaps! That model of good 
taste, that duke, of matchless vigor in a debauch, 
magnificent at courts, charming in his manner to 
women whose hearts he had twisted as the peasant 
twists an osier band, that man of genius was afflicted 
by an obstinate catarrh, pitiless sciatica, brutal gout. 
He watched his teeth leaving him, as the fairest and 
9 



130 THE ELIXIR OF LONG LIFE 

most beautifully dressed women go away, one by 
one, at the end of a party, leaving the salon deserted 
and bare. His bold hands trembled, his slim legs 
tottered, and one evening apoplexy grasped his neck 
with its ice-cold, hooked fingers. After that fatal 
day, he became morose and stern. He slandered 
the devotion of his son and wife, declaring at times 
that their delicate and touching attentions were lav- 
ished upon him with such a show of affection only 
because he had invested his whole fortune in an 
annuity. At such times, Elvire and Philippe would 
shed bitter tears and redouble their caresses, where- 
upon the old man's cracked voice would assume an 
affectionate tone as he said to them: 

"My friends, my dear wife, you will forgive me, 
won't you? I torment you a little. Alas! O God, 
why dost Thou make use of me to test the virtues of 
these two heavenly creatures? I, who should be 
their joy, am a scourge to them." 

In that way he chained them to his pillow, making 
them forget whole months of testiness and cruelty 
by a single hour in which he displayed the ever- 
new treasures of his fascinating manners and of 
a pretended affection. A paternal system which 
succeeded infinitely better than that which his father 
had formerly adopted toward him. At last his ill- 
ness reached such a dangerous stage that it was nec- 
essary to put him to bed, and to that end to handle 
him as carefully as a felucca entering a dangerous 
strait. At last came the day of his death. That 
sceptical, brilliant creature, whose understanding 



THE ELIXIR OF LONG LIFE 131 

alone survived the most horrible of all forms of 
decay, found himself between a physician and a 
confessor, his two antipathies. But he was jovial 
with them. Was there not a light shining for him 
behind the veil of the future? Upon that veil, made 
of lead for other people, but transparent for him, 
the lightsome, ravishing joys of youth frisked about 
like ghosts. 

It was a lovely summer evening when Don Juan 
became conscious of the approach of death. The 
Spanish sky was wonderfully clear, the orange- 
trees filled the air with perfume, the stars shone 
with a bright, white light, nature seemed to offer 
him absolute pledges of his resurrection, a pious 
and obedient son stood gazing at him with love and 
respect. About eleven o'clock, he requested to be' 
left alone with that innocent creature. 

" Philippe," he said to him in such a kind, affec- 
tionate voice that the young man started and wept 
with pleasure; never had that inflexible father uttered 
the word Philippe in such a tone. "Listen to me, 
my son," continued the moribund. " I am a great 
sinner. That is why I have thought constantly of 
death throughout my life. Long ago I was a friend 
of the great Pope Julius II. That illustrious pontiff 
feared that the excessive irritation of my passions 
might lead me to commit some mortal sin between 
the moment of my death and the administering of the 
consecrated oils: he gave me a phial containing some 
of the holy water that gushed from the rocks in the 
desert. I have kept the secret of that encroachment 



132 THE ELIXIR OF LONG LIFE 

upon the treasure of the Church, but I am author- 
ized to disclose it to my son in articulo mortis. You 
will find the phial in the drawer of this Gothic table 
which has always stood beside my pillow. The 
priceless vessel may be of service to you also, my 
beloved Philippe. Swear to me, by your everlast- 
ing salvation, that you will faithfully execute my 
orders." 

Philippe looked at his father. Don Juan was too 
keen a judge of the expression of human sentiments 
upon the features not to be able to die in peace on 
the faith of such a look, even as his father had died 
in despair on the faith of his. 

" You deserved a better father," continued Don 
Juan. " I venture to confess, my child, that at 
the moment when the excellent abbe of San-Lucar 
administered the viaticum to me, I was thinking of 
the incompatibility of two powers so extensive as 
those of God and the devil." 

" Oh! father!" 

" And I said to myself that, when Satan makes 
his peace, he ought, under pain of being considered 
a miserable wretch, to stipulate for the pardon of his 
adherents. That thought haunts me. So I should 
go to hell, my son, if you should not fulfil my 
desires.'*' 

"Oh! father, tell me them quickly!" 

"As soon as I have closed my eyes," rejoined 
Don Juan, " after two or three minutes, perhaps, 
you will take my body, while it is still warm, and 
lay it on a table in the centre of this room. Then 



THE ELIXIR OF LONG LIFE 133 

you will extinguish the lamp; the light of the stars 
will be sufficient for you. You will remove my 
clothes; and while you recite Paters and Aves, thus 
lifting up your soul to God, you will carefully anoint 
with that holy water my eyes, my lips, and my 
whole head first, then the body and the limbs in 
succession; but God's power is so great, my son, 
that you must not be astonished at anything you 
may see!" 

With that, Don Juan, feeling that death was at 
hand, added, in an awful voice: 

"Hold fast the phial!" 

Then he quietly breathed his last in the arms of 
his son, whose tears flowed abundantly upon his 
livid, sneering face. 

It was about midnight when Don Philippe Belvi- 
dero placed his father's body on the table. Having 
kissed the scowling brow and the gray hair, he extin- 
guished the lamp. The soft light of the moon, whose 
fantastic reflections illumined the fields, enabled the 
pious Philippe to see his father's body indistinctly, 
like a white form amid the shadows. The young 
man soaked a cloth in the liquid, and faithfully 
anointed that sacred head, praying fervently the 
while. He heard a mysterious shivering, but attrib- 
uted it to the breeze playing among the tree-tops. 
When he had moistened the right arm, he felt the 
strong embrace of a powerful, youthful arm about 
his neck: his father's arm! He uttered a heart- 
rending shriek and dropped the phial, which was 
broken in a thousand pieces. The liquid evaporated. 



134 THE ELIXIR OF LONG LIFE 

The servants of the chateau hurried to the spot, 
armed with torches. That shriek had surprised and 
terrified them as if the last trump had shaken the 
world to its foundation. In a moment, the room was 
filled with people. The trembling crowd saw Don 
Philippe unconscious, but held fast in the grasp of 
his father's strong arm, which was thrown around 
his neck. And then a supernatural thing! they 
saw Don Juan's face, as youthful and beautiful as 
the face of Antinous; a face with sparkling eyes 
and bright red lips, surrounded by jet-black hair, and 
moving about in a way that was horrible to contem- 
plate, with no power to move the skeleton to which 
it belonged. 

" Miracle!" cried an old servant. 

And all the Spaniards repeated: 

"Miracle!" 

Too devout to admit the possibility of magic, 
Donna Elvire sent for the abbe of San-Lucar. 
When the priest saw the miracle with his own eyes, 
he determined to make the most of it, like a shrewd 
man and an abbe who asked nothing better than to 
add to his income. Declaring at once that Don Juan 
would infallibly be canonized, he appointed the cere- 
mony of the apotheosis to take place in his convent, 
which should thenceforth be called, he said, San-Juan 
de Lucar. At those words, the face made a facetious 
grimace. 

The liking of the Spaniards for solemn functions 
of that sort is so well known that it should not be 
difficult to conceive the religious enchantments 



THE ELIXIR OF LONG LIFE 135 

whereby the abbey of San-Lucar celebrated the 
translation of the blessed Don Juan Bel-videro in its 
church. A few days after that illustrious noble- 
man's decease, the miracle of his partial resurrection 
was so widely known within a radius of fifty leagues 
of San-Lucar that it was like a comedy to see the 
sightseers on the roads; they came from all direc- 
tions, attracted by a Te Deum sung by torchlight. 
The ancient mosque of the convent of San-Lucar, a 
marvellous edifice built by the Moors, whose arches 
had heard for three centuries past the name of Jesus 
Christ substituted for that of Allah, was too small 
to contain the multitude assembled to witness the 
ceremony. Crowded together like ants, hidalgos in 
velvet cloaks and armed with their good swords, 
stood around the pillars, unable to find room to bend 
their knees, which bent nowhere else. Lovely peas- 
ant-women, whose basquines outlined voluptuous 
forms, supported white-haired old men. Young men 
with eyes that flashed fire found themselves beside 
bedizened old women. Then there were couples 
trembling with joy, inquisitive fiancees escorted by 
their swains; bridegrooms a day old; children timidly 
holding one another by the hand. That vast multi- 
tude, gay with bright colors, brilliant with contrasts, 
bedecked with flowers and jewels, made a not un- 
pleasant uproar in the silence of the night. The 
great doors of the church were thrown open. Those 
who had arrived too late and were obliged to remain 
outside, saw from afar, through the three open por- 
tals, a scene of which the airy scenery of our modern 



136 THE ELIXIR OF LONG LIFE 

operas would afford but a feeble conception. Zealots 
and sinners, eager to earn the good graces of a new 
saint, lighted in his honor in that vast church myriads 
of tapers, a selfish illumination which imparted a 
magically beautiful aspect to the edifice. The dark 
arches, the pillars and their capitals, the deep 
chapels gleaming with gold and silver, the galleries, 
the Saracenic ornamentation, the most delicate fea- 
tures of that delicate carving, stood clearly forth in 
that flood of light, like the fanciful figures that form 
in a red-hot brazier. It was an ocean of gleaming 
lights, dominated by the gilded choir at the rear of 
the church, where rose the main altar, whose splen- 
dor rivalled that of the rising sun. But the splendor 
of golden lamps, of silver candelabra, of banners, 
tassels, saints, and ex-votos, paled before the shrine 
on which Don Juan lay. The scoffer's body gleamed 
with jewels, flowers, crystals, diamonds, gold, and 
plumes as white as a seraph's wings, and took the 
place of a picture of the Christ over the altar. 
Around it blazed innumerable candles which filled 
the air with waves of flame. The worthy abbe of 
San-Lucar, arrayed in his pontifical vestments, armed 
with his mitre, studded with precious stones, his 
lawn-sleeves, his golden crucifix, was seated, king of 
the choir, in an armchair of imperial magnificence, in 
the midst of all his clergy, impassive old men with 
silvery hair, clad in rich albs, who surrounded him 
like the saints whom painters represent as grouped 
around the Almighty. The precentor and the dig- 
nitaries of the Chapter, decorated with the gorgeous 



THE ELIXIR OF LONG LIFE 137 

insignia of their ecclesiastical vanities, went and 
came in the clouds formed by the incense, like stars 
gliding through the firmament. When the triumphal 
hour was at hand, the bells woke the echoes of the 
country-side, and that vast throng breathed upward 
to God the first outcry of praise with which the Te 
Deum begins. Sublime outcry! There were pure, 
clear voices, women's voices, blended in ecstasy 
with the grave, powerful voices of men, thousands of 
voices united in such a mighty wave of sound, that 
the organ failed to soar above it, despite the roaring 
of its pipes. Only the shrill notes of the youthful 
voices of the choir-boys and the full tones of a few 
tenors evoked pleasing images, depicted infancy and 
strength, in that ravishing concert of human voices 
blended in an outburst of love. 

Te Deum laudamus ! 

From the heart of that cathedral, black with kneel- 
ing men and women, the psalm arose like a light 
that suddenly shines forth in the darkness, and the 
silence was broken as by a thunderclap. The voices 
ascended with the clouds of incense which cast a 
transparent, bluish veil over the fantastic beauties of 
the architecture. All was splendor, perfume, light, 
and melody. Just as those strains of love and grati- 
tude were wafted up toward the altar, Don Juan, too 
courteous not to express his thanks, too clever not 
to understand raillery, replied by a ghastly laugh 
and solemnly moved in his shrine. But, as the devil 
caused him to think of the risk he ran of being taken 
for an ordinary man, a saint, a Boniface, a Pantaleon, 



138 THE ELIXIR OF LONG LIFE 

he interrupted that outpouring of love by a howl 
with which the thousand voices of hell were blended. 
Earth blessed, Heaven cursed. The church trembled 
on its ancient foundations. 

"Te Deum laudamus!" sang the assemblage. 

" Go to all the devils, brute beasts that you are! 
God ! God ! Carajos demonios ! Animals, how tire- 
some you are with your old man God !" 

And a torrent of imprecations poured forth, like a 
river of burning lava during an eruption of Vesuvius. 

"Deus Sabaoth ! Sabaoth!" cried the Christians. 

"You insult the majesty of hell!" replied Don 
Juan, gnashing his teeth. 

Soon the living arm succeeded in coming from the 
shrine, and threatened the assemblage with gestures 
instinct with despair and irony. 

" The saint is blessing us!" said the old women, 
the children, and the betrothed young men, credulous 
folk. 

This explains how we are often led astray in our 
adorations. The man of superior mind makes sport 
of those who compliment him, and sometimes compli- 
ments those of whom he is really making sport in 
his heart. 

At the moment when the abbe, prostrate before 
the altar, chanted: Sancte Johannes, ora pro nobis! he 
distinctly heard the words: O coglione! 

" What is going on up there?" cried the sub-prior, 
seeing the shrine move. 

"The saint is playing the devil," replied the 
abbe. 



THE ELIXIR OF LONG LIFE 139 

Thereupon that living head tore itself violently 
away from the body which had ceased to live, and 
fell upon the celebrant's yellow skull. 

" Remember Donna Elvire!" cried the head, as it 
buried its teeth in the abbe's head. 

The latter uttered a frightful shriek which dis- 
turbed the ceremony. All the priests ran up and 
surrounded their sovereign. 

" Idiot, say that there is a God, will you!" cried 
the voice, just as the abbe, bitten in the brain, was 
breathing his last. 

Paris, October 1830. 



SERAPHITA 



TO MADAME EVELINE DE HANSKA, NEE COMTESSE 
RZEWUSKA 

This, madame, is the work that you asked at my 
hands: I am happy, in dedicating it to you, to be able 
to bear witness to the respectful affection which you 
have deigned to allow me to entertain for you. If I 
am accused of failure after trying to evolve from 
the profundities of mysticism this book which, in 
addition to the transparency of our beautiful lan- 
guage, demanded the luminous poesy of the Orient, 
yours be the blame! Did not you bid me undertake 
this task, comparable to that of Jacob, saying to me 
that even the most imperfect sketch of the figure of 
which you had dreamed from childhood, as I myself 
had done, would be a thing of some value to you? 
So here it is, that thing of some value. Why may 
not this work belong exclusively to those noble minds 
which, like yours, have been preserved from worldly 
trivialities by solitude? such minds would be able to 
supply the melodious measure which it lacks, and 
which would have made of it, in the hands of one of 
our poets, the glorious epic which France is still 
awaiting; but those same minds will accept it from 
me like one of those balustrades carved by some 
artist overflowing with faith, whereon pilgrims lean 
d43) 



144 DEDICATION 

to meditate upon the end of man, as they gaze upon 
the choir of a beautiful church. 

I am, madame, with respect, your devoted ser- 
vant 

DE BALZAC. 

Paris, 23d August, 1835. 



AT THE FOOT OF THE F ALB ERG 



On a certain morning when tlie sun was shining 
brightly upon the landscape we have described, kin- 
dling the flames of all the ephemeral diamonds pro- 
duced by the crystallisation of the snow and ice, tu'o 
persons passed across the fiord, flew along the base 
of the Falberg, and soared toward its summit from 
bastion to bastion. 



SERAPHITUS 

As one looks at the coast-line of Norway upon a 
map, how can one's imagination fail to be moved to 
wonder by its fantastic indentations, a long stretch 
of granite lacework upon which the waves of the 
North Sea roar incessantly? who has not dreamed 
of the majestic spectacles presented by those beach- 
less shores, by that multitude of creeks and little 
bays and fiords, of which not one is like the others, 
and which are all trackless abysses? Would not one 
say that nature had taken delight in stamping in 
ineffaceable hieroglyphs the symbol of Norwegian 
life, by giving to that coast the shape of an immense 
fish-bone? for fishing is the principal industry of the 
country, and furnishes almost the entire food-supply 
of the few men who cling like lichens to those bar- 
ren cliffs. On a territory covering fourteen degrees 
of latitude, there are hardly seven hundred thousand 
souls. Thanks to the perils unattended by glory, to 
the everlasting snows with which the mountain 
peaks of Norway the very name causes a shiver 
greet the traveller, their sublime beauties have re- 
mained unexplored, and will be found to harmonize 
10 (145) 



146 SERAPHITA 

perfectly with the human phenomena, likewise un- 
explored, at least so far as their poetic side is con- 
cerned, which have taken place there, and of which 
this is the story. 

When one of these little bays, a mere cleft in the 
rock in the eyes of the eid ir-duck, is so wide that the 
water does not freeze solid in the prison of stone in 
which it struggles, the people of the country call it a 
fiord, a word which almost all geographers have tried 
to naturalize in their respective languages. Despite 
the generic resemblance of these quasi-canals, each 
has its own special physiognomy: in all of them the 
sea has found its way into every fissure, but every- 
where the rocks are cleft in a different way, and their 
volcanic precipices defy the most fanciful geometrical 
terms: here, the granite is toothed like a saw; there, 
its surface is too steep to allow the snow to rest upon 
it, or the Northern firs with their graceful plumes to 
find a foothold; farther on, the upheaval of the soil 
has hollowed out some dainty, lovely valley adorned 
by tier above tier of trees with dark foliage. You 
would be tempted to call that country the Switzer- 
land of the sea. Between Drontheim and Christi- 
ania there is one of these indentations called the 
Stromfiord. If the Stromfiord is not the loveliest 
spot in all that lovely region, it has, at all events, 
the merit of combining all the terrestrial splendors 
of Norway, and of having served as the scene of a 
truly celestial story. 

The general shape of the Stromfiord, at first sight, 
is that of a funnel in which a breach has been made 



SERAPHITA 147 

by the sea. The passage which the waves have 
opened presents to the eye the image of a struggle 
between the ocean and the granite, two equally 
potent creations: one by its inertia, the other by its 
mobility. By way of proofs, a number of reefs of 
fantastic formation forbid ships to enter. In some 
places, the fearless children of Norway can leap from 
side to side, unawed by an abyss a hundred fathoms 
deep and only six feet wide. Sometimes a frail and 
unsteady bit of gneiss has fallen across the abyss 
and joins the two cliffs. Sometimes hunters or 
fishermen have thrown firs across, in guise of bridges, 
to join two perpendicular quays, at whose bases the 
sea roars incessantly. The dangerous, narrow en- 
trance to the fiord turns to the right with a snakelike 
twist, encounters a mountain which rises to a height 
of eighteen hundred feet above the sea-level, its 
base forming a vertical shelf half a league in length, 
whose unyielding granite does not begin to crumble, 
to split, or to recede until it reaches a point about 
two hundred feet above the water. So that the 
sea, rushing violently in, is dashed back with equal 
violence, by the vis inertice of the mountain, against 
the opposite shore, to which the fierce blows of the 
waves have imparted graceful curves. At the head 
of the fiord is a mass of gneiss crowned with forests, 
from which a river falls in cascades, becoming a 
rushing torrent when the snow melts in the spring, 
when it forms a sheet of water of vast extent, and 
roars down into the fiord, vomiting forth aged firs 
and larches, which can hardly be distinguished amid 



148 SERAPHITA 

the foam. Hurled violently into the deep waters 
of the gulf, these trees soon reappear on the surface, 
become entangled there and form little islands, which 
float ashore on the left bank, where the people of 
the little village on the Stromfiord find them, broken 
and torn, sometimes with their trunks entire, but 
always stripped of bark and branches. The moun- 
tain which receives the assaults of the sea against 
its base in the Stromfiord, and the assaults of the 
north wind upon its summit, is called the Falberg. 

Its peak, always enveloped in a cloak of snow and 
ice, is the steepest in Norway, where the proximity 
of the pole causes, at an altitude of eighteen hun- 
dred feet, a cold equal to that which reigns on 
the loftiest mountains of the globe. The side of the 
mountain toward the sea is an almost perpendicular 
cliff, but inclines gradually toward the east, and is 
connected with the falls of the Sieg by a series of 
valleys at different elevations, where the cold allows 
nothing to grow save furze-bushes and stunted trees. 
That part of the fiord into which the stream empties 
at the feet of the forest is called Siegdalhen, a 
word which may be translated " the slope of the 
Sieg," that being the name of the river. The 
curve opposite the sheer precipice of the Falberg is 
the valley of Jarvis, a lovely spot overlooked by 
hills covered with firs, larches, birches, and a few 
oaks and beeches, the richest and most brightly col- 
ored of all the decorations that northern nature has 
bestowed upon those rugged cliffs. The eye can 
readily distinguish the line at which the soil, heated 



SERAPHITA 149 

by the sun's rays, begins to allow cultivation and 
affords sustenance for the various species of Nor- 
wegian flora. At that spot, the fiord is so wide that 
the waves, hurled back by the Falberg, expire with 
gentle murmuring on the lowest fringe of those hill- 
sides, a shore bordered with fine sand, sown with 
spangles of mica, with pretty pebbles, with bits 
of porphyry and marble of innumerable shades, 
brought from Sweden by the waters of the river, 
and with drift from the sea, shells and sea-flowers 
which have been tossed there by the storms, from 
the pole or from the south. 

At the base of the mountains of Jarvis lies the 
village, consisting of some two hundred wooden 
houses, whose inhabitants are lost to the world like 
swarms of wild bees in a forest, which, without 
increasing or diminishing in numbers, vegetate con- 
tentedly, living by plunder in the bosom of nature 
at its wildest. The unknown existence of that vil- 
lage is easily explained. Few men were bold enough 
to venture among the reefs at the outlet of the fiord 
to engage in fishing, an industry in which the Nor- 
wegians engage on a grand scale on other less perilous 
parts of the coast. The fish are numerous enough 
in the fiord to furnish a large part of the food-supply 
of the people; the pasture land in the valleys sup- 
plies them with milk and butter; then there are some 
excellent fields in which they are able to raise rye, 
hemp, and vegetables, which they defend against 
the extreme cold and against the short-lived but in- 
tense heat of their summer with the skill that all 



1 50 SERAPHITA 

Norwegians display in that twofold contest. The lack 
of communications, either by land, where the roads 
are impracticable, or by sea, where none but small 
boats can thread their way through the maritime de- 
files of the fiord, prevents them from enriching them- 
selves by finding a market for the wood of their 
forests. It would require an outlay as enormous to 
make the fiord navigable as to open a road into the 
interior. The roads from Christiania to Drontheim 
give the fiord a wide berth, and cross the Sieg by 
a bridge several leagues from its mouth; the shore 
between the valley of Jarvis and Drontheim is 
covered with vast, impassable forests; and the Fal- 
berg is separated from Christiania by inaccessible 
precipices. The village of Jarvis might, perhaps, 
have been placed in communication with the interior 
of Norway and with Sweden by way of the Sieg; 
but, to be brought in touch with civilization, the 
Stromfiord required a man of genius. That man of 
genius did, in fact, make his appearance; he was a 
poet, a Swedish monk, who died admiring and vene- 
rating the beauties of the country as one of the most 
magnificent of the Creator's works. 

Now, those men whom study has endowed with 
that inward sight whose rapid perception brings in 
succession before their minds, as upon a canvas, the 
most strongly contrasted landscapes of the earth, 
will readily form an idea of the general appearance 
of the Stromfiord. They, and they alone, perhaps, 
will be able to sail, in imagination, among the reefs 
at the tortuous entrance of the bay wherein the sea 



SERAPHITA IJI 

roars endlessly; to follow its wild waves along the 
eternal shelving faces of the Falberg, whose pyram- 
idal white peaks blend with the misty clouds in a sky 
that is almost always of a pearly-gray; to admire 
the lovely, indented surface of the bay; to listen 
to the cascades of the Sieg, which falls in long, white 
threads upon a breastwork of fine trees scattered 
about in confusion, standing erect or hidden among 
fragments of gneiss; and then to rest on the joyous 
pictures presented by the sloping hills of Jarvis, 
where the vegetable treasures of the North spring 
from the earth, in families, in myriads: here, birches 
graceful as maidens and swaying gracefully like 
them; there, colonnades of beech-trees, with cen- 
tenary, moss-grown trunks; all the contrasts of the 
varying shades of green, of white clouds floating 
among black firs, of vast moors covered with purple 
heather in an infinite variety of shades in fine, all 
the colors, all the perfumes, of that flora whose 
marvels are unknown to the world. Magnify the 
proportions of that amphitheatre, soar among the 
clouds, lose yourself in the clefts of the cliffs 
where the sea-dogs seek repose, your imagination 
will never rise to the magnificence or the poesy of 
that corner of Norway! Could your imagination 
ever be as great as the ocean that confines it, as 
capricious as the fanciful figures outlined by those 
forests, those clouds, those shadows, and by the 
rapid variations of the light? 

Do you see, above the fields by the shore, on the 
upper margin of the tillage land that extends in a 



152 SERAPHITA 

wavy line along the base of the high hills of Jarvis, 
two or three hundred houses covered with ncever, 
a roofing material made of birch-bark, frail, low 
houses, which resemble silk-worms on a mulberry- 
leaf, blown there by the wind? Above those hum- 
ble, peaceful dwellings is a church, built with a 
simplicity that harmonizes with the poverty of 
the village. A cemetery surrounds the apse of the 
church, and a little farther on is the rectory. Still 
higher up, on a hump of the mountain, stands a 
house, the only one in the village built of stone, 
and, for that reason, called by the natives the 
"Swedish chateau." In truth, some thirty years 
before this story opens, a rich man came from 
Sweden to Jarvis and settled there, exerting himself 
to improve the fortunes of the village. That little 
house, built with the design of inducing the natives 
to build similar ones for themselves, was remarkable 
by reason of the solidity of its construction, and by 
reason of the wall that enclosed it, a rare thing in 
Norway, where, notwithstanding the great abun- 
dance of stone, wood is used for all fences, even for 
those about the fields. The house, thus protected 
from the snow, stood on raised ground in the centre 
of a vast courtyard. The windows were sheltered 
by penthouses projecting to a great distance and 
supported by great squared firs, which impart a sort 
of patriarchal appearance to the structures of the 
northern countries. From beneath those sheltering 
projections one could readily distinguish the wild 
nakedness of the Falberg, compare the infinite 



SERAPHITA 153 

expanse of the open sea to the mere drop of water 
in the foaming gulf, listen to the ceaseless flowing of 
the Sieg, whose surface seemed motionless at a dis- 
tance as it fell into its granite bowl, bounded for 
three leagues around by the glaciers of the North ; 
in a word, one could see the whole region in which 
the supernatural events of this narrative are to take 
place. 

The winter of 1799 and 1800 was one of the 
roughest within the memory of Europeans; the sea 
about Norway rushed bodily into the fiords, where 
the violence of the surf ordinarily prevents it from 
freezing. A terrific wind, the effects of which re- 
sembled those of the Spanish levanter, swept the 
ice from the Stromfiord and blew all the snow to 
the head of the inlet. Not for many years had the 
people of Jarvis been permitted to see, in winter, 
the colors of the sky reflected in the vast mirror of 
the water, a curious spectacle in the bosom of those 
mountains whose inequalities were all buried be- 
neath the successive layers of snow, the sharpest 
peaks as well as the deepest valleys forming slight 
folds merely in the vast robe cast by nature over 
that landscape, at that time melancholy beyond 
words in its glaring monotony. The long falling 
sheets of the Sieg, being suddenly frozen, described 
an enormous arch beneath which the natives might 
have passed out of reach of the hurricanes, had any 
of them been bold enough to venture abroad. But 
the dangers of travelling, even the shortest distances, 
kept the most fearless hunters at home, for they 



1 54 SERAPHITA 

feared that on account of the snow they might not 
be able to recognize the paths cut along the edges of 
precipices and crevasses and on the mountain sides. 
So it was that no living thing gave animation to that 
desert of white, where the north wind from the 
pole reigned supreme, its voice alone being audible 
there at rare intervals. The sky, almost always of 
a grayish hue, caused the water to assume the tints 
of burnished steel. Perchance an old eider-duck, 
now and then, flew unharmed through the boundless 
expanse of sky, protected by the warm down about 
which hover the dreams of the wealthy, who have 
no knowledge of the dangers which are the price of 
those feathers; but, like the Bedouin who alone 
ploughs the trackless sands of Africa, the bird was 
neither seen nor heard ; the benumbed atmosphere, 
deprived of its magnetic currents, echoed neither 
the flapping of its wings nor its cheery cries. In- 
deed, no eye of sufficient keenness could have en- 
dured the glare of that precipice covered with 
dazzling crystals, and the pitiless reflection of the 
snow, barely softened on the summit by the rays of 
a pallid sun, which appeared now and again as if 
desirous to demonstrate the fact that it still lived. 
Often, when heaps of gray clouds, driven in squad- 
rons among the mountain peaks and the firs, con- 
cealed the sky beneath a threefold curtain, the 
earth, in default of light from heaven, furnished 
light for itself. So it was that in that spot were to 
be seen all the majestic features of the cold that for- 
ever encompasses the pole, its leading characteristic 



SERAPHITA 155 

being the royal silence in which absolute monarchs 
live. Every principle carried to extremes bears 
within itself the appearance of a negation and the 
symptoms of death: is not life a contest between 
two forces? In that spot there was nothing to indi- 
cate life. A single power, the unproductive strength 
of the ice, reigned unopposed. The roaring of the 
open sea in its passion did not reach that silent 
basin, where there is so much uproar during the 
three short months when nature makes all haste to 
produce the scanty crops necessary for the support 
of that patient people. A few tall firs reared aloft 
their black pyramids laden with snowy garlands, 
and the shape of their hanging branches, with their 
drooping needles, completed the mourning aspect of 
those mountain tops, where they assumed in the 
distance the appearance of brown specks. 

Every family remained by its own fireside, in a 
house carefully closed, supplied with biscuit, pre- 
served butter, and dried fish, provisions laid in be- 
forehand for the seven winter months. One could 
hardly see the smoke from those dwellings. Almost 
all of them were buried under the snow, but protected 
against injury from its weight by long boards run- 
ning from the roof to posts set solidly in the earth 
at a considerable distance and forming a covered 
road around the house. During such terrible winters, 
the women weave and dye the cotton or woollen 
stuffs of which their clothes are made, while most 
of the men read, or abandon themselves to those 
absorbing reflections which have given birth to the 



1 56 SERAPHITA 

profound theories, the mystic dreams of the North, 
its beliefs, its exhaustive studies concerning an ab- 
struse point in science, which they investigate as if 
with a probe; a semi-monastic mode of life which 
compels the mind to fall back upon itself, to find its 
sustenance within itself, and which makes of the 
Norwegian peasant a being apart among the people 
of Europe. Such, then, was the condition of the 
Stromfiord in the first year of the nineteenth cen- 
tury, about the middle of the month of May. 

On a certain morning when the sun was shining 
brightly upon the landscape we have described, kin- 
dling the flames of all the ephemeral diamonds pro- 
duced by the crystallization of the snow and ice, two 
persons passed across the fiord, flew along the base 
of the Falberg, and soared toward its summit from 
bastion to bastion. Were they two human beings or 
two arrows? One who had seen them rising, frieze 
above frieze, would have taken them for two eider- 
ducks sailing in company through the clouds. Neither 
the most superstitious fisherman nor the most daring 
huntsman would have attributed to human creatures 
the power to retain their footing along the faint lines 
marked upon the granite where those two glided 
along none the less with the uncanny surefooted ness 
possessed by somnambulists when, forgetting all the 
risks attendant upon their weight and the dangers of 
the slightest deviation from the true course, they 
run along the edges of roofs, maintaining their equi- 
librium by virtue of some unknown power. 

"Stop, Seraphitus," said one of the two, a pale 



SERAPHITA 157 

young girl, " and let me breathe. I have looked only 
at you as we climbed the walls of this abyss; other- 
wise, what would have become of me? But then, I 
am only a poor, weak creature. Do I tire you?" 

" No," said he, upon whose arm she was leaning. 
"Forward, Minna! the place where we now are is 
not secure enough for us to stay here." 

Again they both made the long pieces of board 
fastened to their feet whistle over the snow, and 
reached the first shelf which chance had clearly 
marked upon the side of the abyss. The person 
whom Minna called Seraphitus supported himself 
upon his right heel to raise the board, which was 
about six feet long, narrow as a child's foot, and 
was made fast to his shoe by two thongs made of 
the skin of a sea-dog. The board was about two 
inches thick and faced with reindeer skin, the hair 
of which, standing erect in the snow, brought Sera- 
phitus abruptly to a standstill; he drew up his left 
foot, to which was attached a similar patten not 
less than twelve feet long, turned hastily around, 
seized his timid companion, lifted her in his arms 
notwithstanding the long pattens with which her 
feet were shod, and seated her on a block of granite 
after brushing the snow away with his cloak. 

"You are safe here, Minna, you can tremble at 
your ease." 

" We have already climbed a third of the way up 
the Ice-Cap," she said, glancing up at the peak to 
which she gave the popular name by which it is 
known in Norway. " I cannot believe it." 



1 58 SERAPHITA 

But she was too much out of breath to say more, 
so she smiled at Seraphitus, who placed his hand 
upon her heart without replying, and held her so, 
listening to its resonant palpitations, which were as 
hurried as those of a young bird taken by surprise. 

" It often beats as quickly when I have not been 
running," she said. 

Seraphitus bowed, with no sign of disdain or in- 
difference. Despite the grace which made that 
movement of his head almost courtly, it neverthe- 
less betrayed a dissent which, in a woman, would 
have been bewitchingly coquettish. Seraphitus 
pressed the maiden warmly to his heart. Minna 
took the caress for a reply, and continued to gaze 
at him. As Seraphitus raised his head, tossing back 
from his forehead the golden masses of his hair 
with an almost impatient gesture, so as to expose his 
brow, he read happiness in his companion's eyes. 

" Yes, Minna," he said, in a voice whose paternal 
accent had a fascinating sound in the mouth of one 
still in his teens, " look at me, do not look down." 

"Why not?" 

" Do you want to know? Try it." 

Minna cast a hasty glance at her feet, and uttered 
a sudden shriek, like a child who has fallen in with 
a tiger. The horrible sensation of dizziness had 
seized her, that single glance had sufficed to com- 
municate the contagion to her. The fiord, jealous 
of encroachments upon its domain, roared aloud in a 
voice that confused her, ringing in her ears, as if to 
'devour her more surely by interposing between her 



SERAPHITA 1 59 

and life. Thereupon a shiver crept down her back 
from her hair to her feet, icy cold at first, but it soon 
poured into her nerves an insufferable heat, beat 
violently in her veins, and tortured all her extremities 
with electric shocks like those caused by touching 
the electric eel. Too weak to resist, she felt herself 
irresistibly drawn by an unknown force down from 
the shelf on which they stood, where she fancied 
that she saw some monster darting venom at her, a 
monster whose magnetic eyes fascinated her, whose 
open jaws seemed to be crunching his prey in antici- 
pation. 

" I die, my Seraphitus, having never loved anyone 
but you," she said, mechanically making a move- 
ment as if to jump. 

Seraphitus breathed softly on her forehead and 
her eyes. Suddenly, like the traveller refreshed by 
a bath, Minna found that only the memory remained 
of her poignant suffering, already banished by that 
caressing breath which permeated her body and in- 
undated her with balsamic emanations, as swiftly as 
the breath had passed through the air. 

"Who, then, are you?" she said, with a feeling 
of delicious terror. " But I know, you are my life. 
How can you look into that abyss without dying?" 
she continued, after a pause. 

Seraphitus left her clinging to the granite, and 
went and took up his position, as a ghost might 
have done, on the very edge of the shelf, whence 
his eyes gazed down into the fiord, defying its 
dazzling depth; his body did not tremble, his brow 



160 SERAPHITA 

remained as white and impassive as that of a marble 
statue: abyss against abyss! 

"Seraphitus, if you love me, come back!" cried 
the girl. "Your danger renews my torture. Who 
are you, pray, that you have such superhuman 
power at your age?" she asked him, when she felt 
his arms about her once more. 

" Why," he replied, " you look without fear upon 
spaces far more vast." 

And this strange being pointed with his raised 
finger to the halo of blue sky left by the clouds 
above their heads, in which the stars could be seen 
in broad day by virtue of an atmospheric law not yet 
explained. 

" But what a difference!" she said, with a smile. 

"You are right," he replied; "we were born to 
bend our steps heavenward. One's native country, 
like a mother's face, never frightens a child." 

His voice stirred the very entrails of his com- 
panion, who had become silent. 

" Well, let us go on," he added. 

They flitted together along the faintly-marked 
paths on the mountain-side, from terrace to terrace, 
from line to line, with the rapidity of the Arabian 
horse, that bird of the desert. In a few moments, 
they reached a carpet of grass and mosses and 
flowers, whereon no human creature had ever rested. 

"What a lovely sorter!" exclaimed Minna, call- 
ing the mead by its true name; " but how happens 
it to be at this height?" 

" We are above the line of the Norwegian flora, it 



SERAPHITA l6l 

is true," said Seraphitus; " but the presence of these 
few blades of grass and flowers is due to this cliff 
which shelters them from the polar cold. Put this 
flower in your bosom, Minna," he added, plucking 
a flower; " take this fragrant, unique flower that no 
human eye has ever beheld, and keep it as a souve- 
nir of this morning, unique in your life! Never again 
will you find a guide to lead you to this sosler." 

As he spoke, he suddenly handed her a hybrid 
plant which his eagle eye had shown him among 
the stalkless silenes and the saxifrages, a veritable 
marvel of beauty blossoming under the breath of 
angels. With childish eagerness, Minna seized the 
plant, in color a transparent green as brilliant as 
the green of the emerald, consisting of small green 
leaves rolled together in the shape of a horn, light 
brown in the centre, but changing gradually to green 
toward the edges, which were serrated with teeth of 
marvellous delicacy of outline. The leaves were so 
close together that they seemed to blend with one 
another, and produced a multitude of pretty rose- 
shaped effects. Here and there, upon that carpet, 
rose white stars bordered with a thread of gold, 
with purple stamens but no pistils protruding from 
their bosoms. A perfume, suggestive at once of 
that of the rose and the orange-blossom, but fleeting 
and wild, gave the final touch to the indefinably 
celestial quality of that mysterious flower, which 
Seraphitus contemplated with a sort of melancholy, 
as if its odor expressed to him plaintive thoughts 
which he alone understood. But to Minna that 
ii 



162 SERAPHITA 

extraordinary phenomenon seemed to be a mere ca- 
price whereby nature had amused herself by endow- 
ing stones with the freshness, the beauty, and the 
fragrance of plants. 

" Why should it be unique? Will it never be re- 
peated?" the girl asked Seraphitus, who blushed, 
and abruptly changed the subject. 

" Let us sit down; turn around and look! Per- 
haps you will not tremble at this height? The abyss 
is so deep now that you can no longer distinguish 
its depth, it has acquired the smooth aspect of the 
sea, the indistinctness of the clouds, the color of 
the sky; the ice in the fiord is a lovely turquoise 
shade; the forests of firs are mere faint dark-brown 
lines; for us, all abysses should be thus adorned." 

Seraphitus uttered these words with the impres- 
siveness of tone and gesture known only to those 
who have climbed to the summit of the loftiest 
mountains on the globe; a manner contracted so in- 
stinctively that the haughtiest traveller finds him- 
self compelled to treat his guide as a brother, and 
does not deem himself his superior until they de- 
scend again into the valleys where men dwell. He 
knelt at Minna's feet and removed her snow-shoes. 
The child was not conscious of it, so lost in wonder 
was she at the imposing spectacle presented by the 
Norwegian landscape, the high cliffs being visible 
from base to summit at a single glance: so deeply 
.moved was she by the solemn permanence of those 
ice-bound peaks, which mere words were powerless 
to describe. 



SERAPHITA 163 

" We did not come here by the aid of human 
strength alone," she said, clasping her hands; 
"surely I am dreaming." 

" You call those facts supernatural of which the 
causes elude you," he replied. 

"Your answers," she rejoined, "are always 
stamped with an indefinable depth of meaning. Be- 
side you, I understand everything without an effort. 
Ah! I am free." 

" You no longer have your snow-shoes on, that is 
all." 

" Oh!" she exclaimed, " when I would have loved 
to unfasten yours and kiss your feet!" 

"Keep such words for Wilfrid," rejoined Sera- 
phitus, gently. 

"Wilfrid!" Minna repeated, in an outburst of 
wrath, which subsided as soon as she had glanced at 
her companion. "You never lose your temper!" 
she said, trying, but in vain, to take his hand ; 
"you are despairingly perfect in every respect." 

"And from that you conclude that I am without 
feeling?" 

Minna was terrified at that keen glance flashed 
into her mind. 

"You make it clear to me that we understand 
each other," she replied, with the fascinating grace 
of the woman who loves. 

Seraphitus shook his head slowly as he glanced at 
her with an expression at once sad and sweet. 

"Do you who know everything," continued 
Minna, " tell me why the shyness that I felt with 



164 SERAPHITA 

you down yonder has vanished since we came up 
here; why do I now dare, for the first time, to look 
you in the face, whereas, down in the valley, I 
hardly dared to steal a glance at you?" 

" Here, perhaps, we have laid aside the trivial 
things of earth," he replied, removing his cloak. 

"You were never so handsome," said Minna, 
seating herself upon a moss-covered rock, and losing 
herself in contemplation of the being who had guided 
her over a part of the mountain which at a distance 
seemed inaccessible. 

Never, in very truth, had Seraphitus shone with 
such dazzling brilliancy; no other expression would 
do justice to the animation of his features and the 
general aspect of his person. Was that splendor 
due to the lustre imparted to the complexion by 
the pure air of the mountains and the reflection of the 
snow? was it produced by the internal commotion 
which overexcites the body when it is resting after 
long-continued agitation? was it attributable to the 
sharp contrast between the golden radiance cast by 
the sun and the darkness of the clouds through 
which the lovely couple had passed? Perhaps we 
should add to those causes the effects of one of the 
most beautiful phenomena which human nature has 
it in its power to offer. If some skilful physiologist 
had examined that creature, who seemed at that mo- 
ment, judging by the pride depicted upon his brow 
and the gleam that shot from his eyes, a young 
man of some seventeen years ; if he had sought 
the active principle of that vigorous life beneath 



SERAPHITA 165 

the fairest skin that ever the North bestowed upon 
one of its children, he would undoubtedly have be- 
come convinced of the existence of a phosphores- 
cent fluid in nerves which seemed to shine beneath 
the epidermis, or of the constant burning of an in- 
ward light which illumined Seraphitus as an alabaster 
lamp is illumined by the light within it. Although 
his hands, from which he had removed the gloves 
in order to unfasten Minna's snow-shoes, were slen- 
der and tapering, they seemed to possess strength 
equal to that which the Creator has bestowed on the 
transparent claws of the crab. The golden flames 
that flashed from his eyes contended for supremacy 
with the rays of the sun, and he seemed not to re- 
ceive light from it, but to give it light. His body, 
slender and fragile as a woman's, denoted one of 
those natures apparently feeble, whose power is al- 
ways on a level with their desires, and who are 
always strong at the right moment. 

Seraphitus was of medium height, but seemed to 
grow taller when he turned his face to you, as if 
he were about to soar aloft. His hair, curled by 
a fairy's hand, and seemingly ruffled by a breath 
of wind, added to the illusion produced by his 
ethereal bearing; but that bearing, entirely free 
from effort, resulted from a mental phenomenon 
rather than from a physical habit. Minna's imag- 
ination was accessory to that constant hallucination, 
to which anyone would have fallen a victim, and 
which gave to Seraphitus the appearance of the 
faces we see in a pleasant dream. No known type 



166 SERAPHITA 

could convey an adequate impression of that face, 
so majestically virile in Minna's eyes, but, in the 
eyes of a man, capable of eclipsing by its feminine 
charm the loveliest faces that we owe to Raphael's 
brush. That divine painter constantly portrayed a 
sort of placid joy, an amorous sweetness in the lines 
of his angelic beauties; but was ever imagination so 
rich that, without looking upon Seraphitus himself, 
it could portray the melancholy blended with hope 
which half concealed the ineffable sentiments stamped 
upon his features? Who could conceive, even in an 
artistic rhapsody, when everything is possible, the 
shadows cast by a mysterious awe upon that too in- 
telligent brow which seemed to question the skies and 
always to have pity on the earth? That head soared 
disdainfully aloft, like a sublime bird of prey whose 
cries rend the air, and yet was as resigned as the 
turtle-dove whose voice pours forth its song of affec- 
tion in the heart of the silent forest. Seraphitus's 
complexion was unusually light, and its fairness was 
heightened by red lips, dark-brown eyebrows and 
silky lashes, the only details that marred the pallor 
of a face whose perfect regularity of feature inter- 
fered in no wise with the vivid expression of the 
feelings; they were reflected therein without strain 
or violence, but with the natural and majestic gravity 
which we love to attribute to beings of a superior 
type. Everything in that marble-like face expressed 
strength and repose. 

Minna rose to take Seraphitus's hand, hoping that 
she might in that way draw him toward her and lay 



SERAPHITA 167 

upon that fascinating brow a kiss extorted by ad- 
miration rather than by love; but a glance from the 
young man, a glance that penetrated her very being 
as a sunbeam penetrates the prism, froze the poor 
girl's blood. She was conscious, but without under- 
standing it, of a gulf between them, she turned her 
face away and wept. Suddenly a powerful hand 
grasped her waist, and a voice, overflowing with 
melody, said to her: 

"Come!" 

She obeyed, and placed her face, suddenly reani- 
mated, against the young man's heart; and he, 
adapting his step to hers, with sweet courtesy, 
led her to a spot from which they could see the 
gorgeous decorations of the polar landscape. 

" Before I look at you and listen to you, Sera- 
phitus, tell me why you repulse me? Have I dis- 
pleased you? tell me how. I would like to have 
nothing of my own ; I would that all my earthly 
riches were yours as the riches of my heart are 
yours; that the light came to me only through your 
eyes, as my thoughts are derived from your thoughts; 
then I should no longer fear to offend you by send- 
ing back to you the reflections of your mind, the 
words of your heart, the light of your light, as we 
send back to God the reflections with which He feeds 
our minds. I would like to be all you!" 

" Ah, well, Minna, a constant desire is a promise 
made us by the future. Hope on! But if you wish 
to be pure, always mingle the thought of the Om- 
nipotent with your earthly affections, then you will 



1 68 SERAPHITA 

love all His creatures, and your heart will attain a 
great height!" 

" I will do whatever you wish," she replied, rais- 
ing her eyes timidly to his face. 

"I cannot be your companion," said Seraphitus, 
sadly. 

He forced back certain thoughts that came to his 
lips, and held out his arms toward Christiania, which 
was visible, a mere speck on the horizon. 

"Look!" said he. 

" We are very small," she replied. 

" True, but we become great by sentiment and 
intelligence," replied Seraphitus. "With us alone, 
Minna, begins the knowledge of things; the little 
that we learn of the laws of the visible world enables 
us to discover the vastness of the worlds above. I 
know not if there is still time to speak thus to you; 
but I would be so glad to communicate to you the 
flame of my hopes! Perhaps we shall be together 
some day in the world where love does not die." 

" Why not now and forever?" she murmured. 

"Nothing is stable here," he scornfully replied. 
" The ephemeral bliss of earthly loves is a ray 
of light which indicates to some minds the dawn of 
more lasting bliss, just as the discovery of a natural 
law leads some richly endowed minds to infer the 
existence of a whole system of similar laws. Is not 
our fragile earthly happiness, then, the proof of 
another perfect happiness, just as the earth, a frag- 
ment of the world, is a proof of the existence of 
the world? We cannot measure the vast orbit of the 



SERAPHITA 169 

divine thought, of which we are but an atom, as 
infinitesimal as God is great, but we can foresee its 
immensity, and kneel and worship and wait. Men 
always go astray in their scientific investigations 
because they do not see that everything on this globe 
of theirs is relative and implies a general revolution, 
a constant production which necessarily brings with 
it progress toward an end. Man himself is not a 
complete creation; otherwise God would not exist!" 

"How have you found time to learn so many 
things?" the girl asked him. 

" I remember," was his reply. 

" In my eyes, you are more beautiful than every- 
thing else that I see." 

"We are among the greatest of God's works. 
Has He not given us the power to meditate concern- 
ing nature, to concentrate it in ourselves by the 
thought, and to make of it a stepping-stone to rise 
nearer to Him ? We love one another in proportion 
as our minds contain more or less of Heaven. But 
do not be unjust, Minna; look at the spectacle spread 
out at your feet, is it not grand? At your feet the 
ocean stretches away like a carpet, the mountains 
are like the walls of a circus, the ether above us is 
like the rounded curtain of this great theatre, and 
here we inhale the thought of God like a sweet per- 
fume. Look! the storms that shatter vessels laden 
with men seem to us here but gentle breezes, and if 
you raise your head and look above us, all is blue. 
See yonder diadem of stars. Here the varying 
shades of terrestrial expression disappear. Gazing 



170 SERAPHITA 

upon this landscape, softened by distance, do you 
not feel within yourself more profundity of thought 
than wit? have you not more solemnity than en- 
thusiasm? more energy than will? are you not con- 
scious of sensations which we have no power to 
interpret? Do you not feel that you have wings? 
Let us pray." 

Seraphitus bent his knee, and crossed his hands on 
his breast, while Minna fell upon her knees weeping. 
They remained thus for some moments, during which 
the blue halo in the sky above their heads grew 
larger, and beams of light enveloped them without 
their knowledge. 

"Why do not you weep when I weep?" said 
Minna in a broken voice. 

"They who are all spirit do not weep," replied 
Seraphitus, rising. "Why should I weep? I no 
longer see the misery of mankind. Here, the good 
shines forth in all its majesty; below, I hear the 
supplications and the agonizing cries of the harp of 
sorrows, vibrating under the fingers of the captive 
spirit. Here, I listen to the concert of the heavenly 
harps. Below, you have hope, that noble commence- 
ment of faith; but this is the kingdom of faith, which 
is hope realized !" 

"You would never love me, I am too imperfect, 
you despise me," said the girl. 

" Minna, the violet that lies hidden at the foot of 
the oak says to itself: ' The sun loves me not, it 
comes not to me.' The sun says to itself: ' Should 
I shine upon that poor flower, it would perish ! ' 



SERAPHITA 171 

Being fond of the flower, it filters its rays through 
the leaves of the oak, and so weakens them in order 
to color the petals of its beloved. It seems to me 
that I do not wear veils enough, and I fear lest you 
see me too clearly: you would shudder if you knew 
me better. Listen: I have no taste for the fruits of 
the earth; I have learned to know too well the 
pleasures you enjoy; and, like the dissolute em- 
perors of profane Rome, I have reached the point 
where everything is distasteful to me, for I have 
acquired the gift of second-sight. Give me up," 
said Seraphitus, sorrowfully. 

He went and took his seat upon a block of stone, 
letting his head fall forward on his breast. 

"Why do you drive me to despair thus?" said 
Minna. 

" Begone!" cried Seraphitus. " I have nothing of 
what you would have of me. Your love is too 
earthly for me. Why do you not love Wilfrid? 
Wilfrid is a man, a man tried by passions, who will 
know how to embrace you with his nervous arms, 
who will make you feel the pressure of a broad, 
strong hand. He has fine, black hair, eyes over- 
flowing with human thoughts, a heart that pours 
torrents of lava into the words his lips pronounce. 
He will crush you with caresses. He will be your 
well-beloved, your husband. Wilfrid is the man for 
you!" 

Minna wept hot tears. 

" Do you dare to say that you love him not?" he 
asked, in a voice that pierced her heart like a dagger. 



172 SERAPHITA 

" Mercy, mercy, my Seraphitus!" 

" Love him, poor child of the earth to which your 
destiny holds you fast," said the terrible Seraphitus, 
seizing Minna with a violence that forced her to go 
with him to the edge of the soekr, from which the 
view was so boundless that an enthusiastic girl could 
easily believe herself to be above the world. " I 
desired a companion to go with me to the kingdom 
of light, I determined to show you this bit of clay, 
and I see that you still cling to it. Farewell ! Re- 
main here, enjoy through your senses, obey your 
nature, turn pale with pale men, blush with women, 
play with the children, pray with the guilty, raise 
your eyes to Heaven in your sorrow; tremble, hope, 
palpitate; you will have a companion, you can still 
laugh and weep, give and receive. But I am a sort 
of outcast, far from heaven; a sort of monster, far 
from earth. My heart no longer beats; I live only 
in myself and for myself. I feel with my mind, I 
breathe with my brow, I see with my thought, I am 
dying of impatience and hopeless longings. No one 
on earth has the power to gratify my desires, to calm 
my impatience, and I have forgotten how to weep. 
I am alone. I am resigned, and I wait." 

Seraphitus glanced at the flower-strewn mound on 
which he had placed Minna, then turned toward the 
lofty mountains whose summits were veiled with 
dense clouds, into which he cast the rest of his 
thoughts. 

"Do you not hear a delicious concert, Minna?" 
he continued, in his turtle-dove's voice, for the eagle 



SERAPHITA 173 

had cried enough. " Would not one say it was pro- 
duced by the >olian harps which your poets place 
in the heart of forests and mountains? Do you see 
the indistinct figures in yonder clouds? do you see the 
winged feet of those who are arranging the decora- 
tions of the sky? Those strains refresh the soul; 
soon the sky will let fall the flowers of spring, a 
gleam of light has come from the north. Let us fly, 
it is time." 

In a moment, their snow-shoes were reattached 
and they descended the Falberg by the steep slopes 
that led down into the valley of the Sieg. A miracu- 
lous intelligence guided their course, or, to speak 
more accurately, their flight. When a snow-covered 
crevasse came in their way, Seraphitus grasped 
Minna and darted swiftly, light as a bird, across the 
fragile layer of snow that bridged the deep chasm. 
Often, guiding his companion's steps, he made a 
slight deviation to avoid a precipice, a tree, a rock 
which he seemed to see under the snow, as seamen 
familiar with the ocean divine the presence of reefs 
by the color, the eddies, or the smoothness of the 
water. When they reached the Siegdalhen path and 
could go down almost fearlessly in a straight line to 
the ice in the Stromfiord, Seraphitus stopped Minna. 

" Have you nothing more to say to me?" he asked 
her. 

" I thought that you wished to meditate undis- 
turbed," replied the maiden, respectfully. 

" Let us hurry, sweet one, the night is at hand," 
he rejoined. 



174 SERAPHITA 

Minna started when she heard the voice of her 
guide, for its tone was new to her; pure as a young 
girl's, it put to flight the fantastic, luminous mist of 
the dream through which she had thus far marched. 
Seraphitus began to lay aside his masculine vigor and 
to banish from his glances their too keen intelligence. 
Soon those two fascinating creatures glided out upon 
the fiord and reached the field of snow that lay be- 
tween the bank and the first row of houses in the 
village of Jarvis; then, impelled by the approach of 
darkness, they ascended hastily toward the rectory, 
as if they were climbing the steps of a vast staircase. 

" My father must be anxious," said Minna. 

" No," Seraphitus replied. 

At that moment, they reached the porch of the 
humble dwelling where Monsieur Becker, the pastor 
of Jarvis, sat reading, awaiting his daughter for the 
evening meal. 

"Dear Monsieur Becker," said Seraphitus, "I 
bring Minna back to you safe and sound." 

" Thanks, mademoiselle," replied the old man, 
laying his spectacles down on the book. " You 
must be tired." 

" Not at all," said Minna, who at that moment 
felt her companion's breath on her brow. 

" Will you come to take tea with me, little one, on 
the day after to-morrow, in the afternoon?" 

" With great pleasure, my dear." 

"You will bring her, will you not, Monsieur 
Becker?" 

"Yes, mademoiselle." 



SERAPHITA 175 

Seraphitus bowed coquettishly, saluted the old 
man, departed, and a few moments later arrived in 
the courtyard of the Swedish chateau. An octoge- 
narian man-servant appeared under the immense 
penthouse, holding a lantern. Seraphitus removed 
his snow-shoes with the graceful dexterity of a 
woman, hastened to the parlor, threw himself on 
a great couch covered with furs, and lay there at 
full length. 

" What will you have to eat?" asked the old man, 
lighting the unconscionably long candles that are 
used in Norway. 

" Nothing, David, I am too tired." 

He removed his cloak lined with marten fur, rolled 
himself up in it, and fell asleep. The old servant 
stood for some moments gazing fondly at the singular 
being who was reposing under his eyes, and whose 
sex nobody would have found it easy to determine, 
not even those most knowing in such matters. To 
see him lying so, wrapped in his customary garment, 
which resembled a woman's peignoir quite as much 
as a man's cloak, it was impossible not to attribute 
to a young girl the dainty feet which he allowed to 
hang over the edge of the couch, as if to show with 
what delicate grace nature had attached them to his 
legs; but his brow, his profile, would have seemed 
to denote manly vigor carried to its highest point. 

" She is suffering, and will not tell me," thought 
the old man; "she is dying like a flower withered 
by a too fierce sunbeam." 

And the old man wept. 



II 



SERAPHITA 

During the evening, David entered the parlor once 
more. 

" I know whom you have come to announce," 
said Seraphita, in a sleepy voice. " Wilfrid may 
come in." 

Overhearing the words, a man suddenly appeared, 
and sat down by her side. 

" My dear Seraphita, are you ill? You seem paler 
than usual." 

She turned slowly toward him, after pushing her 
hair back from her forehead like a pretty woman 
who is so overdone by headache that she no longer 
has strength to complain. 

"I committed the folly of crossing the fiord with 
Minna; we climbed the Falberg." 

" Did you want to kill yourself?" he exclaimed, 
with the terror of a lover. 

" Have no fear, my good Wilfrid, I took the best 
care of your Minna." 

Wilfrid struck the table violently with his hand, 
rose and walked toward the door, uttering a sorrowful 

12 (177) 



178 SERAPHITA 

exclamation, then returned, and tried to express his 
grievance in words. 

" Why this uproar if you think I am ill?" queried 
Seraphita. 

"Forgive me! have mercy on me!" he replied, 
kneeling beside her. " Speak harshly to me, demand 
of me whatever is hardest to endure of all that your 
pitiless woman's caprice may suggest to you; but, 
my beloved, do not cast a doubt upon my love. 
You use Minna for an axe, and rain blows upon me. 
Mercy!" 

"Why say such words to me, my friend, when 
you know they are of no avail?" she replied, glan- 
cing at him with an expression which finally became 
so soft that Wilfrid no longer saw Seraphita's eyes, 
but a sort of liquid light, whose trembling resem- 
bled the last echoes of a melody instinct with Italian 
sweetness. 

"Ah! one does not die of suffering," he said. 

"Are you in pain?" she asked, in a voice whose 
vibrations produced an effect upon his heart similar 
to that produced by her glance. " What can I do 
for you?" 

" Love me as I love you." 

" Poor Minna!" she replied. 

" 1 never go armed!" cried Wilfrid. 

"You are in a vile mood," said Seraphita, with a 
smile. " Did I not speak like those Parisian women 
of whose love-affairs you tell me?" 

Wilfrid resumed his seat, folded his arms, and 
gazed gloomily at Seraphita. 



SERAPHITA 179 

"I forgive you," he said, "for you know not 
what you do." 

"Oh!" she retorted, "ever since the days of 
Eve, women have always done both good and evil 
knowingly." 

" I believe it," he said. 

"I am sure of it, Wilfrid. Our instinct is pre- 
cisely what makes us. so perfect. What you men 
learn we women instinctively feel." 

"Then, why do you not feel how dearly I love 
you?" 

" Because you do not love me." 

" Great God !" 

" Why do you complain so of your suffering?" 
she asked. i 

" You are terrible to-night, Seraphita. You are a 
veritable demon." 

" No, I am simply blessed with the faculty of 
comprehension, and that is frightful. Grief, Wilfrid, 
is a light that illumines life for us." 

"Why did you climb the Falberg, I pray to 
know?" 

" Minna will tell you. I am too tired to talk. Do 
you talk, you who know everything, have learned 
everything, and forgotten nothing, and have passed 
through so many social tests. Entertain me, I am 
listening." 

" What can I say to you that you do not know? 
Indeed, your very question is a mockery. You 
admit nothing that exists in the world, you distort its 
nomenclature, you trample on its laws, its manners, 



ISO SERAPHITA 

its feelings, its learning, reducing them to the pro- 
portions that they seem to possess when one views 
them from outside the globe." 

" You see, my friend, that I am not a woman. 
You are wrong to love me. I descend from the 
ethereal regions of my pretended power, I make 
myself humbly small, I bow my head after the 
manner of the poor females of every species, and 
lo! you at once exalt me again! In a word, I am 
broken in pieces, shattered, I appeal to you for help, 
I need your arm, and you repulse me; we do not 
understand each other." 

"You are more wicked to-night than I have ever 
seen you." 

" Wicked!" she repeated, flashing a glance at him 
by which all his sentiments were blended in a divine 
sensation. " No, I am not well; that is all. So leave 
me, my friend. Are you not abusing your rights as 
a man? It is our duty always to please you, to 
enliven you, to be always gay, and to have no other 
whims than those that amuse you. What shall I do, 
my friend? Do you expect me to sing or to dance, 
when fatigue deprives me of the use of voice and 
legs? Though we be at our last gasp, my masters, 
we must still smile upon you! You call that reign- 
ing, I believe. The poor women! I pity them. Tell 
me, have they neither heart nor mind, that you 
abandon them when they grow old? Very well, 
Wilfrid, I am more than a hundred years old, so 
begone! go to Minna's feet." 

"Oh! my eternal love!" 



SERAPHITA l8l 

" Do you know what eternity is? Hush, Wilfrid. 
You desire me, but you do not love me. Tell me, 
do I not remind you of some flirt?" 

" Oh! it is true that I no longer recognize in you 
the pure young girl whom I saw for the first time in 
Jarvis church." 

At those words, Seraphita passed her hands across 
her forehead, and when she uncovered her face, 
Wilfrid was amazed by the devout and saintlike 
expression it wore. 

" You are right, my friend. I am always foolish 
to set my foot on your earth." 

"Yes, dear Seraphita, be my star, and do not 
leave the place whence you shed such a bright light 
upon me." 

As he spoke, he put out his hand to take hers, but 
she withdrew it, with no sign of disdain or anger. 
Wilfrid rose abruptly and walked to the window, 
turning his back so that Seraphita might not see the 
tears that gathered in his eyes. 

" Why do you weep?" she said. "You are no 
longer a child, Wilfrid. Come, come back to me, I 
insist upon it. You sulk when I ought to be angry. 
You see that I am ill, and you compel me, by your 
absurd doubts, to think, to speak, or to share whims 
and ideas that weary me. If you had the intelli- 
gence that is a part of my nature, you would have 
sung to me, you would have soothed my ennui to 
sleep; but you love me for yourself and not for me." 

The storm that was raging in Wilfrid's heart was 
suddenly calmed by these words; he drew near 



1 82 SERAPHITA 

slowly, the better to contemplate the ravishing crea- 
ture who lay stretched out before his eyes, reclining 
gracefully, leaning on her elbow in a seductive posi- 
tion, her head on her hand. 

"You think that I do not love you," she con- 
tinued. " You are, mistaken. Listen to me, Wilfrid. 
You are beginning to know much, for you have 
suffered much. Let me tell you your thoughts. 
Would you like to take my hand?" 

She rose to a sitting position, and in her fascinat- 
ing movements she seemed to radiate light. 

" Does not a maiden who allows her hand to be 
taken make a promise, and should she not fulfil it? 
You know well that I cannot be yours. Two senti- 
ments govern the passions that captivate earthly 
women. Either they devote themselves to suffering, 
degraded, criminal beings, whom they seek to con- 
sole, to raise from their degradation, to redeem; or 
they give themselves to beings of superior mould, 
sublime and strong, whom they seek to understand 
and to worship, and by whom they are often crushed. 
You have been degraded, but you have purified 
yourself in the fire of repentance, and you are great 
to-day; I feel that I am too weak to be your equal, 
and I am too religious to humble myself to any power 
other than that of the Most High. Your life, my 
friend, may be interpreted thus: we are in the North, 
among the clouds, where abstractions are current." 

"You kill me, Seraphita, when you talk so," he 
replied. " It always pains me to see you make use 
of the abnormal knowledge with which you strip all 



SERAPHITA 183 

human things of the properties imparted to them by 
time, space, and form, to analyze them mathemati- 
cally by some scientific process or other, as geom- 
etry treats the bodies whose solidity it abstracts." 

" Very well, Wilfrid, I will obey you. Let us 
drop the subject. How do you like that bear-skin 
rug my poor David has placed there?" 

" Why, very much." 

" You did not know that I had this doucha greka, 
did you?" 

It was a sort of cloak, made of cashmere lined 
with black fox, the name signifying warm to the 
heart. 

" Do you believe that any sovereign of any court 
possesses such a piece of fur?" 

" It is worthy of her who wears it." 

"And whom you consider very fair?" 

" Mere human words are not suited to her, one 
must speak to her heart to heart." 

" You are very good, Wilfrid, to soothe my weari- 
ness with sweet words which you have said to 
others." 

"Farewell!" 

" Stay. I love you well, you and Minna, doubt 
it not ! But I think of you as blended in a sin- 
gle being. So united, you are a brother, or, if 
you please, a sister to me. Marry, so that I may 
see you happy before leaving this sphere of pain 
and trials forever. Great Heaven, simple-minded 
women have obtained everything from their lovers! 
They have said to them: ' Hold your peace!' And 



1 84 SERAPHITA 

they have become mute. They have said to them: 
'Die!' And they have died. They have said to 
them: 'Love me from afar!' And they have re- 
mained at a distance, like courtiers before a king. 
They have said to them: 'Marry!' And they have 
married. But I wish you to be happy and you 
refuse me. Am I, then, powerless? Ah! well, 
Wilfrid, listen, come nearer to me: yes, I should be 
sorry to see you marry Minna; but, when I am no 
longer with you, then promise me that you will be 
joined to her; Heaven destined you for each other." 

" I have listened to you with delight, Seraphita. 
Incomprehensible as your words are, they charm 
the ear. But what do you mean?" 

" You are right, I forget to be foolish, to be the 
poor creature whose weakness pleases you. I annoy 
you, and you came to this uncivilized region in 
search of repose, exhausted as you were by the 
fierce assaults of an unappreciated genius, overdone 
by the patient toil of science you who have almost 
dipped your hands in crime and worn the chains of 
human justice." 

Wilfrid had fallen half -dead on the floor. But 
Seraphita breathed on the young man's brow, and 
he instantly fell asleep quietly at her feet. 

" Sleep and rest," she said, rising from her seat. 

She placed her hands upon Wilfrid's head, and 
the following sentences followed one another from 
her lips, each in a different tone from the others, but 
melodious all, and stamped with a kindliness that 
seemed to emanate in misty waves like the beams 



SERAPHITA 185 

with which the profane goddess chastely envelops 
the beloved shepherd during his sleep: 

" I may show myself to you as I am, dear Wilfrid, 
for you are strong. 

" The hour has come, the hour when the brilliant 
gleams of the future cast their reflections upon men's 
souls, the hour when the soul bestirs itself in its 
freedom. 

" Now, I may venture to tell you how dearly I 
love you. Do you not see what sort of love mine 
is, a love devoid of any selfish interest, a sentiment 
concerned with you alone, a love that follows you 
into the future to illumine the future for you? for 
such a love is the true light. Now can you compre- 
hend how ardently I long to know that you are quit 
of this life which weighs upon you, and to see you 
even nearer than you are to the world where love en- 
dures forever? Must not one suffer who loves for a 
lifetime only? Have you never felt a longing for 
everlasting love? Do you understand now to what 
ravishing joy a creature rises, when she has a two- 
fold nature to love him who never betrays love, him 
at whose feet men kneel in adoration ? 

" I would that I had wings, Wilfrid, that I might 
shelter you with them, I would that I had strength 
to give you to enable you to enter before your time 
the world where the purest bliss of the purest pas- 
sion that is known on this earth would be a shadow 
in the light that constantly illumines and gladdens 
the heart. 

" Forgive a loving heart for having put before you 



1 86 SERAPHITA 

in a word the picture of your faults, with the char- 
itable purpose of soothing the sharp sting of your 
remorse! Hearken to the musical strains of pardon! 
Refresh your heart by breathing the air of the dawn 
that is breaking for you beyond the darkness of 
death. Yes, your life lies beyond ! 

" May my words reproduce the radiant forms of 
your dreams, may they deck themselves with images, 
blaze forth, and descend upon you. Ascend, ascend 
to the point where all men can see one another dis- 
tinctly, although as closely crowded together and as 
small as the grains of sand on the seashore. Man- 
kind has unrolled like a piece of ribbon; observe the 
varying shades of that flower from the celestial 
gardens. Do you see those who lack intelligence, 
those who are beginning to acquire it, those who 
have been tested, those who are in love, those 
who are wise and who aspire to the world of light? 

" Do you comprehend by this visible thought the 
destiny of mankind? whence it comes and whither it 
goes? Continue in your course! When you reach 
the goal of your journey, you will hear the trumpets 
of Omnipotence ring out and shouts of victory re- 
sound, and chords of which a single one would cause 
the earth to tremble, but which lose themselves in a 
world without east or west. 

"Do you understand, my poor sorely-tried love, 
that, were it not for the lethargy, the mists of sleep, 
such spectacles would rend and whirl away your in- 
telligence, as a tempest rends and whirls away a 
feeble sail, and would deprive a man of his reason 



SERAPHITA 187 

forever? do you know that the soul alone, when 
raised to its omnipotence, is hardly able to resist 
in dreams the devouring communications of the 
Spirit? 

" Fly on through the radiant and luminous spheres, 
admiring as you go. Flying thus, you obtain rest, 
you proceed without fatigue. Like all men, you 
would like to remain always in those spheres of 
sweet perfume and of light to which you are going, 
light as air throughout your unconscious body, and 
where you will speak by thought! Run, fly, enjoy 
for a moment the wings you will win, when love is 
so complete within you that you will cease to have 
passions, that you will be all intelligence and all love! 
The higher you ascend, the less you think of preci- 
pices! there are no precipices in heaven. Observe 
him who speaks to you, him who supports you above 
the world in which the precipices are. Look, gaze at 
me a moment more, for henceforth you will see me 
only indistinctly as you see me by the light of the 
pale, earthly sun." 

Seraphita rose to her feet, her head slightly bent, 
her hair dishevelled, in the ethereal attitude in which 
all the sublimest painters have represented mes- 
sengers from on high; the folds of her clothing had 
the same indefinable charm that forces the artist the 
man who translates everything by sentiment to 
pause before the exquisite lines of the veiled an- 
tique Polyhymnia. Then she held out her hand, 
and Wilfrid rose. When he looked at Seraphita, the 
pale young girl was lying on the bear-skin, her head 



1 88 SERAPHITA 

resting on her hand, her features tranquil, her eyes 
gleaming. Wilfrid gazed silently at her, but a re- 
spectful fear was visible in his face and betrayed 
itself in his timid manner. 

" Yes, dear one," he said, at last, as if he were 
answering a question, " we are separated by whole 
worlds. I am resigned, and I can only worship you. 
But what will become of poor me, when I am all 
alone?" 

" Have you not your Minna, Wilfrid?" 

He hung his head. 

" Oh! do not be so disdainful; woman understands 
everything through love; when she does not under- 
stand, she feels; when she does not feel, she sees; 
when she neither sees nor feels nor understands, 
why, then that terrestrial angel divines your exist- 
ence in order to protect you, and conceals her pro- 
tection beneath the fascination of love." 

" Seraphita, am I worthy to belong to a woman?" 

"You have suddenly become very modest; can it 
be a snare? A woman is always so moved to see 
her weakness glorified ! But come to drink tea with 
me on the day after to-morrow, in the afternoon; 
good Monsieur Becker will be here, and you will see 
Minna, the most innocent creature whom I know in 
this world. Now leave me, my friend; I have to 
pray at great length to expiate my sins." 

"How can you sin?" 

"My poor dear, is it not pride to abuse one's 
power? I think I have been too proud to-day. 
Come, away with you. Farewell until to-morrow." 



SERAPHITA 189 

" Until to-morrow," echoed Wilfrid in a feeble 
voice, gazing long at the creature before him, for he 
wished to carry away an ineffaceable picture of her 
in his heart. 

Although he intended to go away, he stood for 
some time outside the Swedish chateau, looking at 
the light that shone through the windows. 

" What have I seen?" he asked himself. " She 
is not a mere creature, she is a whole creation. Of 
this world, dimly seen through mists and clouds, I 
retain faint echoes, like the memory of a vanished 
grief, or like the confused state caused by dreams in 
which we hear the lamentations of bygone genera- 
tions mingled with the melodious voices from the 
exalted spheres where all is light and love. Am I 
awake? Am I still sleeping? Have I rescued my eyes 
from sleep, those eyes from which luminous spaces 
recede indefinitely, and which follow the spaces? 
Despite the cold night air, my head is still on fire. 
I will go to the parsonage! with the pastor and his 
daughter, I shall be able to collect my thoughts." 

But not yet did he leave the spot from which he 
could look into Seraphita's salon. That mysterious 
creature seemed to be the radiating circle of an at- 
mosphere which formed about her, greater in extent 
than that of other beings; whoever entered it under- 
went the influence of an eddying whirl of dazzling 
beams and consuming thoughts. Forced to struggle 
against that inexplicable force, Wilfrid did not tri- 
umph over it without a superhuman effort; but after 
he had passed beyond the precincts of that house, he 



190 SERAPHITA 

recovered his freedom of action, hurried away to the 
parsonage, and soon found himself beneath the high 
wooden archway that served as a peristyle to Mon- 
sieur Becker's dwelling. He opened the first door, 
sheathed with newer, against which the wind had 
driven the snow, and knocked hastily at the inner 
door, saying: 

" Will you allow me to pass the evening with you, 
Monsieur Becker?" 

" Yes!" cried two voices as one. 

Upon entering the parlor, Wilfrid gradually re- 
turned to real life. He saluted Minna most affec- 
tionately, pressed Monsieur Becker's hand, and 
contemplated a picture whose details calmed the 
convulsions of his physical nature, in which a phe- 
nomenon took place comparable to that which some- 
times takes place in men accustomed to prolonged 
meditations. If some pregnant thought bears away 
a scholar or a poet on its chimera's wings and re- 
moves him from the external circumstances that 
hedge him in on earth, whirling him through the 
boundless regions where the vastest collections of 
fact become abstractions, where the most stupen- 
dous works of nature are mere images, woe to 
him, if some sudden sound strikes upon his senses 
and recalls his adventurous mind to its prison of 
flesh and blood ! The conflict between those two 
powers, the body and the mind, one of which par- 
takes of the property of invisible action possessed by 
the lightning, while the other shares with sentient 
nature that yielding resistance which momentarily 



SERAPHITA IQI 

defies destruction; that conflict, or, better still, that 
horrible conjunction, engenders indescribable suffer- 
ing. The body demands the return of the flame 
that consumes it, and the flame seizes its prey anew. 
But that fusion does not take place without the effer- 
vescence, the explosions, and the torments which 
we see in chemistry when two antagonistic ele- 
ments, which it has striven to unite, are separated. 
For some days past, whenever Wilfrid entered Sera- 
phita's presence, his body fell into an abyss. By 
a single glance, that strange creature led him in 
thought to the sphere to which meditation leads the 
scholar, to which prayer transports the religious 
mind, to which his visions entice an artist, to which 
sleep carries some men; for every man has his voice 
to beckon him to the higher abysses, every man has 
his guide to direct his steps thither, and one and 
all suffer on their return. There only are the veils 
torn away, there only does Revelation show itself in 
its nakedness, a dazzling, awful disclosure of an un- 
known world, of which the mind brings back to earth 
naught but fragments. To Wilfrid an hour passed 
with Seraphita often resembled the dreams the theri- 
akis love, in which each nervous papilla becomes 
a centre of delirious enjoyment. He left her pres- 
ence as exhausted as a young girl who had worn 
herself out following a giant. The cold air began to 
allay by its stinging blows the morbid excitement 
caused by the combination of his two violently 
sundered natures ; then he always went back to 
the parsonage, drawn to Minna by the thought of the 



IQ2 SERAPHITA 

tranquil home life for which he thirsted, as a Euro- 
pean traveller thirsts for his native land when home- 
sickness seizes him amid the fairy-like scenes that 
lured him to the Orient. At that moment, more 
exhausted than he had ever been, the stranger 
sank into an armchair, and stared about for some 
time like a man just waking. Monsieur Becker and 
his daughter, evidently accustomed to their guest's 
peculiarities, both continued to work. 

The ornaments of the parlor consisted of a collec- 
tion of Norwegian insects and shells. Those curiosi- 
ties, skilfully arranged upon the yellow background 
of the fir with which the walls were wainscoted, 
formed a rich tapestry to which tobacco smoke had 
imparted its dingy tint. At the rear of the room, 
opposite the doorway, was an enormous wrought- 
iron stove, which, under the careful rubbing of the 
maid-servant, shone like polished steel. Seated in a 
capacious upholstered easy-chair, in front of a table 
near the stove, with his feet in a sort of foot-bag, 
Monsieur Becker was reading a huge folio which 
rested upon a pile of books as upon a desk; at his 
left were a jug of beer and a glass; at his right was 
a smoky fish-oil lamp. The clergyman seemed to 
be a man of some sixty years. His face was of the 
type familiar to Rembrandt's brush; there were 
the small, bright eyes, encircled by wrinkles and 
overhung by thick grizzly eyebrows; the white hair 
escaping in two fleecy waves from beneath a black 
velvet cap, the broad, smooth forehead, the peculiar 
shape of the face, made almost square by the great 



SERAPHITA 193 

size of the chin; then there was the profound tran- 
quillity which indicates to the careful observer power 
in some direction, either the royalty that wealth be- 
stows, the magisterial power of the burgomaster, 
the consciousness of artistic talent, or the cubical 
strength of happy ignorance. That handsome old 
man, whose rotundity denoted robust health, was 
enveloped in a dressing-gown of coarse cloth, simply 
trimmed with list. He was puffing gravely at a long 
meerschaum pipe, and at regular intervals emitted a 
cloud of smoke, following with distraught eye its 
fantastic wreaths, engaged, doubtless, in assimilating 
by some process of mental digestion the ideas of the 
author whose work he had in hand. 

On the other side of the stove, -near a door lead- 
ing to the kitchen, Minna's form could be vaguely 
distinguished in the fog produced by the smoke, to 
which she seemed thoroughly habituated. On a 
small table before her were the necessary utensils 
of a housewife: a pile of napkins, stockings to be 
darned, and a lamp like that which gleamed on the 
white pages of the book in which her father seemed 
to be absorbed. Her fresh young face, whose con- 
tour was of extreme delicacy and purity, harmonized 
with the innocence written upon her white brow 
and in her limpid eyes. She sat erect upon her 
chair, bending toward the light a little in order to 
see better, and displayed unwittingly the beauty of 
her figure. She was already dressed for the night 
in a peignoir of white cotton. A simple lawn cap, 
with no other ornament than a ruff of the same 
13 



194 SERAPHITA 

material, covered her hair. Although buried in 
some secret reflection, she counted, without a mis- 
take, the threads of her napkin or the stitches of 
her stocking. Thus she presented the truest and 
most perfect type of the woman destined for house- 
hold duties, whose glance might pierce the clouds 
around the sanctuary, but who was held back at 
man's level by a thought at once humble and chari- 
table. 

Wilfrid had thrown himself into a chair between 
the two tables, and gazed with a sort of bewilder- 
ment at that harmonious picture, with which the 
clouds of smoke were not out of keeping. 

The single window by which the parlor was 
lighted during the summer was carefully closed. In 
lieu of curtains, an old piece of tapestry hung in great 
folds from a wooden rod. There was nothing pic- 
turesque, nothing striking, but absolute simplicity, 
genuine kindliness, the unreserve of nature, and all 
the customs of domestic life, undisturbed and free 
from care. Many dwellings have the appearance of 
a dream, the glitter of the pleasures that are tasted 
therein seems to conceal ruins beneath the cold 
smile of luxury; but that parlor was sublime in its 
reality, harmonious in its coloring, and awoke the 
patriarchal theory of a busy, meditative life. The 
silence was broken by the footsteps of the servant 
as she prepared the supper, and by the sizzling of 
the dried fish which she was frying in salt butter 
according to the custom of the country. 

" Will you smoke a pipe?" said the pastor, seizing 



SERAPHITA 195 

a moment when he thought that Wilfrid could hear 
him. 

"Thanks, dear Monsieur Becker." 

"You seem to be feeling worse than usual 
to-day," said Minna, impressed by the weakness 
betrayed in the stranger's voice. 

" I am always like this when I come from the 
chateau." 

Minna started. 

" It is occupied by a strange person, pastor," he 
continued, after a pause. " During the six months 
I have been in this village, I have not dared to ask 
you any questions about her, and I am obliged to do 
myself violence in order to speak to you of her to- 
day. I began by regretting very keenly that my 
journey was interrupted by the coming of winter 
and that I was compelled to remain here; but, in 
these last two months, the chains that bind me to 
Jarvis have been more firmly riveted every day, 
and I am afraid of ending my days here. You 
know how I met Seraphita, how great an impression 
her features and her voice made upon me, and how I 
was at last admitted to her house, although she will 
never consent to receive anyone. On the first day, 
I returned here to ask you to enlighten me concern- 
ing that mysterious creature. Then began for me 
the series of enchantments " 

"Enchantments!" cried the pastor, shaking the 
ashes from his pipe into a common plate filled with 
sand, which he used as a cuspidor. " Is there such 
a thing as enchantment?" 



IQ6 SERAPHITA 

"Certainly, you who are at this moment read- 
ing so conscientiously Jean Wier's Incantations, will 
understand such description as I am able to give 
you of my sensations," Wilfrid replied, without 
hesitation. "If one studies nature attentively, in 
its greatest upheavals as well as in its most trivial 
works, it is impossible not to recognize the possi- 
bility of enchantment, giving that word its true 
meaning. Man does not create forces, he employs 
the only one which exists and which includes them 
all, motion, the inexplicable breath of the Sovereign 
Maker of worlds. The species are too thoroughly 
separated to be blended by the hand of man; and 
the only miracle of which that hand was capable 
was accomplished in the union of two repugnant sub- 
stances. But powder is germane to lightning! As 
to the creation of some new thing, and suddenly! 
why, creation demands time under all circumstances, 
and time neither advances nor recedes under the 
finger. And so, outside of ourselves, plastic nature 
acts in obedience to laws whose order and practice 
can never be disarranged by any man's hand. But, 
having thus disposed of material things, it would be 
unreasonable not to recognize in ourselves the exist- 
ence of a tremendous power, the effects of which 
are so immeasurable that generations past have 
never classified them perfectly. I do not refer to 
the faculty of separating yourself from your sur- 
roundings, of constraining nature to confine itself 
within the limits of the word, the act of a giant, 
upon which the common herd reflects no more than 



SERAPHITA 197 

it thinks of motion, but which had led the Indian 
Theosophists to explain creation by a word to which 
they attributed the inverse power. The smallest 
morsel of their food, a grain of rice, from which a 
creation goes forth and in which a creation is 
contained alternately, presented to their minds so 
perfect an image of the word that creates and 
the word that abstracts, that it seemed very simple 
to apply that theory to the creation of worlds. The 
majority of men were certain to content themselves 
with the grain of rice sown in the first verse of 
all geneses. Saint John's saying that the Word 
was in God served only to complicate the difficulty. 
But the sowing, the germination, and the blossoming 
of our ideas are trivial matters, if we compare those 
properties, common to many men, to the truly in- 
dividual power of communicating to those properties 
a more or less vigorous strength by some indefinable 
process of concentration, of raising them to the third, 
the ninth, the twenty-seventh power, of making 
them in that way take hold of the masses, and of 
obtaining magical results by condensing the effects 
of nature. 

" Now, I give the name of enchantments to those 
extraordinary antics played by two membranes on 
the canvas of our brains. In the unexplored wilds 
of the spiritual world there are certain beings who 
are armed with these incredible faculties, which 
may fitly be compared to the terrible power pos- 
sessed by gases in the physical world, and who com- 
bine with other beings, permeate them as an active 



198 SERAPHITA 

principle, produce within them effects as of sorcery, 
against which the poor slaves are defenceless; they 
bewitch them, rule them, reduce them to a horrible 
state of serfdom, and impose upon them the grandeur 
and the sceptre of a superior nature, acting some- 
times after the manner of the electric eel, which mag- 
netizes and benumbs the fisherman; sometimes like 
a dose of phosphorus, which overexcites the faculties 
or accelerates the currents of life; sometimes like 
opium, which puts the bodily nature to sleep, re- 
leases the mind from its bonds, allows it to soar 
above the world, shows the world to it through a 
prism, and extracts therefrom the sustenance that 
most delights it; and sometimes like catalepsy, which 
deadens all the faculties for the benefit of a single 
vision. Miracles, enchantments, incantations, sor- 
cery, in a word, all the acts improperly called super- 
natural, are possible, and can be explained only as a 
result of the despotism with which a mind forces us 
to undergo the effects of a mysterious optical illu- 
sion, which enlarges, diminishes, exalts the faculty 
of creation, makes it move within us at its pleasure, 
disfigures or embellishes it in our eyes, takes us to 
heaven or plunges us into hell, the two terms 
by which extreme pleasure and extreme pain are ex- 
pressed. These phenomena are within us, not out- 
side. The creature whom we call Seraphita seems to 
me to be one of those rare and redoubtable demons 
to whom is given the power to enslave men, to 
hasten the course of nature, and to share the occult 
power of God. Her enchantment began in my case 



SERAPHITA 199 

with the silence which was imposed upon me. When- 
ever I dared think of questioning you about her, it 
seemed to me as if I were on the point of revealing 
a secret of which I should be an incorruptible de- 
positary; whenever I attempted to question you, a 
burning seal was placed upon my lips and I became 
the involuntary minister of that mysterious prohibi- 
tion. You see me here now for the one hundredth 
time, depressed, exhausted, because I have been 
playing with the world of hallucinations which that 
girl bears within her a girl who is in the eyes of 
you two a sweet, fragile creature, but in mine the 
most cruel of magicians. Yes, she is to me like a 
sorceress, who carries in her right hand an invisible 
apparatus for disturbing the equilibrium of the globe, 
and in her left hand lightning with which to annihi- 
late everything at her pleasure. At last, the time has 
come when I cannot look at her brow; it gleams with 
unendurable brilliancy. For the last few days I have 
been skirting the precipices of folly too awkwardly 
to keep silent. Therefore I seize the moment when 
I have courage to resist that monster who drags me 
after her, without asking me if I am able to follow her 
flight. Who is she? Did you know her as a child? 
Was she ever born? Had she any parents? Was 
she the offspring of the union of the ice and the sun ? 
She freezes and burns, she appears and disappears 
like a jealous truth, she attracts me and repels me, 
she gives me life and death by turns, I love her and 
I hate her. I can live no longer thus, I must be 
altogether in heaven or in hell." 



200 SERAPHITA 

Holding in one hand his freshly-filled pipe, and 
in the other the lid which he did not replace, Mon- 
sieur Becker listened to Wilfrid with a mysterious 
expression, glancing now and then at his daugh- 
ter, who seemed to understand that language, har- 
monizing as it did with the being who inspired it. 
Wilfrid was as handsome as Hamlet resisting the 
appeals of his father's ghost, with whom he con- 
verses when he appears to him alone among the 
living. 

" That strongly resembles the harangue of a man 
in love," said the worthy pastor, ingenuously. 

"In love!" echoed Wilfrid; "yes, according to 
vulgar ideas. But, my dear Monsieur Becker, no 
words can describe the frenzy with which I rush 
toward that wild creature." 

" You love her, then?" said Minna, in a reproach- 
ful tone. 

" Mademoiselle, I am so strangely agitated when 1 
see her, and so profoundly sad when I go from her 
sight, that any man, experiencing similar emotions, 
would seem to be in love; but that sentiment draws 
two persons passionately together, whereas between 
her and myself an abyss constantly yawns, whose 
cold breath freezes my blood when I am in her pres- 
ence, but of which I am no longer conscious when I 
am away from her. I am always more despairing 
than ever before when I leave her, I always return 
to her with greater ardor, like a scholar in quest of 
a secret, whom nature repels; like the painter who 
seeks to depict life upon his canvas and exhausts his 



SERAPHITA 201 

own strength and all the resources of his art in that 
vain attempt." 

" That all seems very true to me, monsieur," the 
maiden artlessly replied. 

" How can you know anything about it, Minna?" 
inquired the old man. 

"Ah! father, if you had gone with us this morn- 
ing to the summit of the Falberg and had seen her 
praying, you would not ask me that question! You 
would say as Monsieur Wilfrid said when he first saw 
her in our temple: ' She is the genius of prayer.' " 

Her last words were followed by a moment's 
silence. 

"Ah!" exclaimed Wilfrid, "she certainly has 
nothing in common with the creatures who swarm 
in the hollows of this globe." 

" On the Falberg!" cried the old pastor. " How 
did you succeed in reaching it?" 

" I have no idea," replied Minna. " The walk 
seems to me now like a dream of which the memory 
alone remains! Perhaps I should not believe in it 
without this material testimony." 

She took the flower from her corsage and held it 
up. They all sat with their eyes fixed on the pretty 
saxifrage, which was still fresh, and, with the lamps 
shining brightly upon it, gleamed amid the clouds of 
smoke like another light. 

" This is truly supernatural," said the old man, at 
sight of a flower in full bloom in winter. 

"An unfathomable mystery!" cried Wilfrid, ex- 
cited by the perfume. 



202 SERAPHITA 

" This flower gives me the vertigo," rejoined 
Minna. " I fancy that I still hear his voice, which 
is the music of thought, as I still see the light of his 
glance, which is love." 

"In pity's name, my dear Monsieur Becker, tell 
me the story of Seraphita, that enigmatical human 
flower whose image we have before us in this mys- 
terious blossom." 

" My dear guest," the old man replied, emitting a 
cloud of smoke, "in order to tell you of that crea- 
ture's birth, it is necessary to clear away the mists 
from the most obscure of all Christian doctrines; but 
it is not easy to make one's self clear in speaking of 
the most incomprehensible of revelations, the last 
outburst of the faith which has shone upon our 
heap of mud. Do you know of Swedenborg?" 

" By name only; but I know nothing of the man, 
of his books, of his religion." 

" Very well, I will tell you the whole history of 
Swedenborg." 



Ill 



SERAPHITA-SERAPHITUS 

After a pause, during which the pastor seemed to 
be brushing up his memory, he continued in these 
words: 

"Emmanuel Swedenborg was born at Upsala, in 
Sweden, in the month of January, 1688, according 
to some authorities; in 1689, according to his epi- 
taph. His father was Bishop of Skara. Sweden- 
borg lived nearly eighty-five years, his death having 
taken place at London, March 29, 1772. I make 
use of that expression to denote a change of condition 
simply. According to his disciples, Swedenborg was 
seen in Jarvis and in Paris subsequently to that 
date. I beg your pardon, my dear Monsieur Wil- 
frid," said the pastor, with a gesture intended to 
forestall any interruption, " I narrate facts as I have 
heard them, without affirming or denying their truth. 
Listen to me, and afterward you may form such 
opinion of them as you choose. I will tell you when 
I propose to discuss, criticise, or pass judgment upon 
doctrines, in order to establish my intellectual neu- 
trality between reason and HIM ! 
(203) 



2O4 SERAPHITA 

" The life of Emmanuel Swedenborg was divided 
into two parts," continued the pastor. " From 1688 
to 1745, Baron Emmanuel Swedenborg appeared to 
the world as a man of immense learning, esteemed 
and beloved for his virtues, leading an absolutely 
irreproachable and constantly useful life. While 
exercising important public functions in Sweden, he 
published, between 1709 and 1740, numerous and 
valuable books, which enlightened the scientific 
world, upon mineralogy, physics, mathematics, and 
astronomy. He invented the method of constructing 
docks to receive vessels. He wrote upon the most 
important questions, from the rise and fall of tides to 
the position of the earth in space. He invented at the 
same time a method of building better locks for 
canals, and more simple processes for the extraction 
of metals. In fact, he did not turn his attention to a 
single science without causing distinct progress to be 
made therein. During his youth, he studied Hebrew, 
Greek, Latin, and the Oriental tongues, which be- 
came so familiar to him that several illustrious pro- 
fessors frequently consulted him, and he was able 
to identify in Tartary fragments of the most ancient 
book of Holy Writ, called the Wars of Jehovah, and 
the Enunciations, mentioned by Moses in the Book 
of Numbers, xxi. 14, 15, 27-30, * by Joshua, by 
Jeremiah, and by Samuel. The Wars of Jehovah 
would seem to have been the historical part and 
the Enunciations the prophetic part of that book, 
which was anterior to Genesis. Swedenborg went 

* These references are to the Douai Bible. 



SERAPHITA 205 

so far as to assert that the Jaschar, or the Book of the 
Just, mentioned by Joshua, existed in Eastern Tar- 
tary, with the worship of Correspondences. A French- 
man, they say, has recently confirmed Swedenborg's 
theories, announcing that he has found in Bagdad 
several portions of the Bible hitherto unknown in 
Europe. 

"At the time of the discussion, almost European in 
extent, to which animal magnetism gave rise, and 
in which almost all scholars took an active part, in 
1785, Monsieur le Marquis de Thome avenged 
Swedenborg's memory by challenging assertions 
let fall by the commissioners appointed by the King 
of France to investigate the subject of magnetism. 
Those gentlemen declared that there was no known 
theory of the action of the magnet, whereas Sweden- 
bo rg had evolved such a theory as early as 1720. 
Monsieur de Thome seized that opportunity to ex- 
plain the motives of the oblivion in which the most 
famous men left the learned Swede, in order that 
they might overhaul his treasures to assist them in 
their own works. " Some of the most illustrious 
scholars," said Monsieur de Thome, alluding to Buf- 
fon's Theorie de la Terre, " are weak enough to 
array themselves in the peacock's feathers without 
doing homage to him therefor." And he proved 
triumphantly, by citations from Swedenborg's en- 
cyclopaedic works, that that great prophet was sev- 
eral centuries in advance of the slow progress of the 
human sciences: indeed, one need only read his phi- 
losophical and mineralogical works to be convinced 



206 SERAPHITA 

of it. In one passage, he shows himself the pre- 
cursor of the chemistry of to-day, when he asserts 
that all organic natural products are decomposable 
and may be reduced to two pure principles; that 
water, air, and fire are not elements. In another, he 
goes in a few words to the bottom of the mysteries of 
magnetism, and thus deprives Mesmer of the honor 
of having first become acquainted with them. 
There," said Monsieur Becker, pointing to a long 
shelf between the stove and the window, upon 
which stood numerous books of all sizes, "are 
seventeen different works, a single one of which, 
the CEumes Philosophiques et Mineralogiques , com- 
prises three folio volumes. Those productions, 
which bear witness to Swedenborg's positive knowl- 
edge, were given to me by his cousin, Monsieur Sera- 
phitus, Seraphita's father. In 1740, Swedenborg 
relapsed into absolute silence, from which he emerged 
only to lay aside his temporal occupations and to 
devote his thoughts exclusively to the spiritual 
world. He received his first commands from Heaven 
in 1745. He described his calling in this way: 

"One evening, in London, after 'he had dined 
heartily, a dense mist filled his chamber. When 
it disappeared, a creature who had assumed human 
form stood in the corner and said to him, in a terrible 
voice: 

" ' Do not eat so much!' 

" Thereupon he adopted a rigid diet. On the fol- 
lowing night, the same man came, radiant with light, 
and said to him: 



SERAPHITA 207 

" ' I am sent to you by God, who has chosen you to 
explain to mankind the meaning of His word and His 
creations. I will dictate to you what you must write.' 

" The vision lasted a very few moments. The 
ANGEL was clad in purple, he said. During that 
night, the eyes of his inner man were opened, and 
he was able to look into heaven, into the world of 
spirits and into hell: three distinct spheres, wherein 
he recognized persons whom he had known, who 
had perished in their human form, some long before, 
others within a short time. Thereafter Swedenborg 
constantly lived a spirit life, and remained in this 
world as one sent by God. Although his mission 
was disputed by incredulous minds, his conduct was 
visibly that of a being superior to mankind. In the 
first place, although his means required him to con- 
fine himself to the strict necessaries of life, he gave 
away immense sums, and in more than one commer- 
cial centre he was known to have rehabilitated great 
business houses that had failed or were on the point 
of failing. No man who ever appealed to his gener- 
osity failed to depart at once content. An incredulous 
Englishman set out in pursuit of him, met him in 
Paris, and reported that the doors of his house were 
always open. One day, his servant, having deplored 
his negligence in that particular, which rendered him 
liable to be suspected of any thefts of which his 
master might be the victim: 

" ' Let him be easy,' said Swedenborg, smiling, ' I 
pardon his distrust, for he does not see the watch- 
man who guards my door.' 



208 SERAPHITA 

" It was the fact that, wherever he lived, he never 
closed his doors, and nothing was ever taken from 
him. 

"At Gothenburg, sixty miles from Stockholm, he 
announced, three days before the arrival of the cou- 
rier with the news, the precise hour of the confla- 
gration that laid Stockholm in ashes, observing that 
his own house was not burned; which was true. 
The Queen of Sweden told the King of Prussia, her 
brother, at Berlin, that one of her ladies-in-waiting, 
being sued for a sum of money which she knew that 
her husband had paid before he died, but for which 
she could find no receipt, went to Swedenborg, and 
begged him to ask her husband where the evidence 
of payment could be found. The next day, Sweden- 
borg told her where the receipt was; but as, in ac- 
cordance with the lady's wish, he had requested the 
deceased to appear to his wife, she saw her husband 
in a dream, dressed in the robe de chambre he wore 
just before he died, and he showed her the receipt 
in the place indicated by Swedenborg, where it really 
was hidden. One day, as he was leaving London, 
on Captain Dixon's vessel, he heard a lady asking 
if they had laid in an ample stock of provisions. 

" ' We do not need so much/ he replied. 'A week 
from to-day, at two o'clock, we shall be in the harbor 
of Stockholm.' 

"And so it proved. The visionary state into which 
Swedenborg threw himself at pleasure, with respect 
to earthly things, and which astounded by its mar- 
vellous results all those who came in contact with 



SERAPHITA 209 

him, was only a trivial application of his power of 
seeing beyond the skies. Among these visions, the 
one in which he describes his travels in the astral 
regions is not the least interesting, and his descrip- 
tions inevitably surprise one by the ingenuousness 
of the details. A man whose vast scientific learning 
is beyond dispute, who combined in himself concep- 
tion, will, imagination, would certainly have invented 
something better if he had invented at all. The 
fanciful literature of the orientals offers nothing that 
can afford an idea of that astounding work, overflow- 
ing with poetic thoughts in germ, if I may venture 
to compare a work of faith to the productions of the 
Arabian imagination. The abduction of Sweden- 
borg by the angel who acted as his guide in his first 
journey is marked by a sublimity which surpasses, 
by as great a distance as God has placed between 
the earth and the sun, that of the great epics of 
Klopstock, Milton, Tasso, and Dante. That pas- 
sage, which serves as an introduction to his work 
on the astral regions, has never been published; it 
belongs to the traditions bequeathed by Swedenborg 
to the three disciples who were nearest his heart. 
Monsieur Silverichm possesses it in writing. Mon- 
sieur Seraphitus attempted now and then to talk with 
me about it; but the memory of his cousin's words 
was so vivid that he would stop at the first word, 
and fall into a reverie from which nothing could 
coax him. The speech in which the angel proved 
to Swedenborg that our bodies were not made to 
wander about alone, overwhelms all human learning, 



210 SERAPHITA 

so the baron told me, beneath the swelling periods 
of a divine logic. According to the prophet, the 
inhabitants of Jupiter do not cultivate the sciences, 
which they call shadows. The inhabitants of Mer- 
cury abhor the expression of ideas by words, which 
seem to them too materialistic; they have an ocular 
language; those of Saturn are constantly tempted 
by evil spirits; those of the Moon are as small as 
children six years old, their voices seem to proceed 
from the abdomen, and they crawl; those of Venus 
are of gigantic stature, but unintelligent, and live by 
brigandage; a portion of that planet, however, is oc- 
cupied by people of a most peaceful disposition, who 
live in the love of the good. In short, he describes 
the manners and customs of the peoples inhabiting 
those globes, and interprets the general significance 
of their existence with relation to the universe, in 
terms so precise, he offers explanations which harmo- 
nize so perfectly with the results of their apparent 
revolutions in the general system, that it is more 
than likely that scholars will some day come to 
drink of those luminous springs. These are the 
words with which he brings the work to a close," 
said Monsieur Becker, taking up a book and open- 
ing it at the place at which the bookmark was in- 
serted : 

" ' If anyone doubts that I was actually taken to 
a great number of astral worlds, let him recall my 
observations concerning distances in the other life; 
they exist only in reference to the outward con- 
dition of life; now, inasmuch as I am constituted 



SERAPHITA 211 

inwardly like the angelic spirits of those worlds, I 
was able to become acquainted with them.' 

" The circumstances to which we owed the pres- 
ence in this canton of Baron Seraphitus, Sweden- 
borg's beloved cousin, explain my familiarity with 
all the incidents of that extraordinary life. He was 
accused of imposture in certain public journals of 
Europe, which gave currency to the following state- 
ment based upon a letter of Chevalier Beylon. 
Sweden borg, it was said, being informed by certain 
senators of the secret correspondence between the late 
Queen of Sweden and her brother the Prince of Prussia, 
revealed its secrets to that princess, and allowed her to 
believe that he had obtained his information by super- 
natural means. A man entirely worthy of faith, 
Monsieur Charles Leonard de Stahlhammer, a cap- 
tain in the royal guard and a Knight of the Sword, 
answered the calumny by a letter." 

The pastor looked among a number of papers in 
his table-drawer, and finally found a newspaper, 
which he handed to Wilfrid, who read aloud the 
following letter: 

" STOCKHOLM, May 13, 1788. 

" I have read with amazement the letter relating to the in- 
terview between the famous Swedenborg and Queen Louise- 
Ulrique; the alleged facts are entirely false, and I hope that the 
author will pardon me if I prove to him how far he has gone 
astray, by a faithful narrative, the truth of which can be attested 
by several persons of distinction who were present, and who 
are still living. In 1758, a short time after the death of the 
Prince of Prussia, Swedenborg came to the court : he was ac- 
customed to appear there at regular intervals. He was no sooner 



212 SERAPHITA 

in the queen's presence than she said to him : ' By the way, 
Herr Assessor, have you seen my brother?' Swedenborg 
replied that he had not, and the queen rejoined : ' If you meet 
him, salute him for me.' In saying that, she had no other 
purpose than to jest and had not the remotest thought of 
asking him for any information concerning her brother. A 
week later, and not twenty-four days, Swedenborg came 
again to the court so early in the morning that the queen had 
not left her apartment, called the white chamber, where she 
was talking with her maids of honor and other ladies of the 
court. Swedenborg did not wait for the queen to come out, 
but went at once to her apartment and whispered in her 
ear, but did not have a private audience. The queen was so 
thunderstruck that she had an ill turn and required some time 
to recover. When she came to herself, she said to those about 
her: ' Nobody but God and my brother could possibly know 
what he told me ! ' She admitted that he had spoken of her 
latest correspondence with that prince, the subject of which 
was known to themselves alone. I cannot explain how 
Swedenborg became acquainted with that secret; but I am 
able to assert upon my honor, that neither Count H , as the 
author of the letter states, nor any other person, intercepted 
or read the queen's letters. The Senate of those days allowed 
her to write to her brother with perfect freedom, and looked 
upon that correspondence as of no concern to the State. It is 
evident that the author of the letter I have referred to is alto- 
gether unacquainted with the character of Count H . That 
venerable nobleman, who has rendered most valuable services 
to his country, combines great intellectual powers with ex- 
cellent qualities of the heart, and his advanced age has not 
impaired those precious gifts. Throughout his whole ad- 
ministration he displayed the most enlightened political wis- 
dom in conjunction with the most scrupulous integrity, and 
proclaimed himself the enemy of secret intrigues and under- 
hand manoeuvring, which he considered unworthy means of 
attaining his object. Nor was the author any better acquainted 
with Swedenborg. The only weakness of that genuinely 



SERAPHITA 213 

honest man was a proneness to believe in spiritual appari- 
tions ; but I knew him for many years, and I can bear witness 
that he was as firmly persuaded that he had conversed with 
spirits, as I am persuaded that I am writing these words at 
this moment. As a citizen and as a friend, he was a man of 
the utmost integrity, with a horror of imposture, and he led a 
most exemplary life. Thus the explanation of this incident 
which Chevalier Beylon has undertaken to give is seen to be 
entirely without foundation ; and the visit paid to Sweden- 
borg during the night by Counts H and T is conclusively 
contradicted. The author of the letter may be assured that 
I am very far from being a follower of Swedenborg ; only the 
love of truth has prompted me to give an accurate account of 
a fact which has been so often described with an entire ab- 
sence of truth, and I declare that what I have written is the 
exact truth, and in witness thereof I set my hand to this 
letter." 

"The proofs of his mission which Swedenborg 
supplied to the royal families of Sweden and Prussia 
doubtless originated the belief entertained by several 
prominent personages of those two courts," continued 
Monsieur Becker, replacing the paper in the drawer. 
" However," he said, " I will not relate all incidents 
of his material and visible life: his habits made it 
impossible for them to be fully known. He lived in 
retirement, having no desire to become rich or to 
gain celebrity. Indeed, he was remarkable for a 
sort of repugnance to making converts, he opened 
his mind to but few persons, and imparted his ex- 
ternal gifts only to those in whom faith, virtue, and 
love made themselves clearly manifest. He had the 
art of detecting at a single glance the mental condi- 
tion of those who approached him, and transformed 



214 SERAPHITA 

to seers those whom he deigned to touch with his 
inward speech. After the year 1745, his disciples 
never knew him to do any act from any human mo- 
tive. A single person, a Swedish priest named 
Matthesius, accused him of madness. By a strange 
chance, this Matthesius, who was an enemy of 
Swedenborg and his writings, went mad a short 
time after, and was still living at Stockholm a few 
years ago, with a pension granted by the King of 
Sweden. Moreover, a eulogy of Swedenborg, com- 
posed with the most painstaking care so far as the 
incidents of his life were concerned, was pronounced 
in the great hall of the Royal Academy of Sciences 
at Stockholm, in 1786, by Monsieur Sandel, coun- 
cillor to the College of Mines. Lastly, a statement 
received by the Lord Mayor of London describes 
Swedenborg's last illness and death to the smallest 
details; he was attended at that time by Monsieur 
Ferelius, a Swedish ecclesiastic of the highest dis- 
tinction. Those persons who were present bear 
witness that Swedenborg, far from denying his 
writings, constantly asserted their truth. 

" 'A hundred years hence/ he said to Ferelius, 
' my doctrine will govern the Church.' 

" He predicted with absolute accuracy the day and 
the hour of his death. On that day, Sunday, March 
29, 1772, he asked what time it was. 

" ' Five o'clock,' was the reply. 

" ' It is all over,' he said. ' God bless you!' 

" Ten minutes later he tranquilly breathed his last, 
uttering a faint sigh. Simplicity, modesty, solitude, 



SERAPHITA 215 

were the leading features of his life. When he had 
finished one of his treatises, he would go to London 
or Holland to have it printed, and he never men- 
tioned it. He published in that way, one after 
another, twenty-seven different treatises, all writ- 
ten, as he said, at the dictation of angels. Whether 
that be true or not, few men are strong enough to 
endure their flaming eloquence. There they all 
are," said the pastor, pointing to a second shelf 
upon which were some threescore volumes. "The 
seven treatises upon which the spirit of God has 
cast its most brilliant beams are: The Delights of 
Conjugal Love; Heaven and Hell; The Apocalypse 
Revealed ; The Exposition of the Inward Sense ; Divine 
Love ; True Christianity ; The Angelic Wisdom of the 
Omnipotence, Omniscience, and Omnipresence of those 
who Share the Eternity, tlie Immensity of God. His 
interpretation of the Apocalypse begins with these 
words," continued Monsieur Becker, taking down 
and opening the volume nearest him: "'In this 
book I have put nothing of my own, I have spoken 
according to the Word of the Lord, who said to John 
by the mouth of the same angel: "Seal not the 
sayings of the prophecy of this book." ' Apocalypse 
xxii. 10. 

" My dear monsieur," said the pastor, looking up 
at Wilfrid, " I have often trembled in every limb, 
during the long winter nights, reading the awe- 
inspiring works in which that man asserts the most 
marvellous things with perfect sincerity. 

" ' I have seen heaven and the angels/ he says. 



2l6 SERAPHITA 

' The spirit man sees the spirit man much more 
clearly than the earthly man sees the earthly man. 
In describing the marvels of the heavens and the 
regions beneath the heavens, I obey the commands 
of the Lord so to do. People are at liberty to refuse 
to believe me, I cannot put others in the condition in 
which God has put me; it is not in my power to 
allow them to hold converse with angels, nor to per- 
form the miracle of developing their understanding; 
they themselves are the only instruments of their 
elevation to the level of the angels. For twenty- 
eight years past I have lived in the spirit world with 
the angels, and on earth with men; for it has seemed 
good to the Lord to open the eyes of my spirit as he 
opened those of Paul and Daniel and Elisha.' 

" Nevertheless, certain persons have visions of the 
spiritual world by reason of the complete severance 
of their external and internal beings caused by som- 
nambulism. 

"'In that condition/ says Swedenborg in his 
Treatise on Angelic Wisdom, No. 257, 'man may be 
exalted even to the celestial light, because, the cor- 
poreal senses being nullified, the influence of Heaven 
acts without opposition upon the inward man.' 

" Many people, who have no doubt that Sweden- 
borg received revelations from on high, consider, 
nevertheless, that all his writings are not equally 
stamped with divine inspiration. Others insist 
upon absolute assent to Swedenborg's doctrines, 
while admitting his obscurities; but they believe that 
the imperfections of earthly language prevented the 



SERAPHITA 217 

prophet from describing his spiritual visions, whose 
obscurities disappear in the eyes of those whom 
faith has regenerated; for, adopting the sublime ex- 
pression of his most illustrious disciple, the flesh is 
an external generation. To poets and writers gen- 
erally, his marvellous charm is unbounded; to seers, 
everything in his works is absolutely real. His 
descriptions have been subjects of scandal to some 
Christians. Certain critics have cast ridicule upon 
the divine substance of his temples, his golden 
palaces, his superb country-houses in which angels 
disport themselves; others have made merry over 
his thickets of mysterious trees, his gardens in 
which the flowers talk, where the air is white, 
where the mystic jewels, the sardius, the carbuncle, 
the chrysolite, the chrysoprasus, the cyanite, the 
chalcedony, the beryl, the Urim and the Thummim, 
are endowed with motion, are divine truths and can 
be questioned, for they reply by variations of light 
True Religion, 219 ; many intelligent minds do not 
admit the existence of his worlds where the colors 
give delightful concerts, where speech emits flames, 
where the Word is written in little horns True Re- 
ligion, 278. Even in the North, some writers have 
laughed at his doors of pearls, at the diamonds that 
adorn the hangings and furniture of the houses of 
his Jerusalem, where the most trivial utensils are 
made of the rarest substances of the globe. 

" 'But,' say his disciples, 'because all these ob- 
jects are scarce in this world, is that any reason 
why they should not be abundant in the other? On 



21 8 SERAPHITA 

earth, they are of earthly substance, whereas, in 
heaven, they are exposed to the celestial glamour 
and exist, as it were, in the angelic state.' 

"On this same subject, Swedenborg repeated 
these great words of Jesus Christ: ' If 1 have told 
you earthly things and ye believe not, how shall 
ye believe if I tell you of heavenly things?' Saint 
John iii. 12. 

" I, monsieur, have read Swedenborg from begin- 
ning to end," resumed Monsieur Becker, with an 
emphatic gesture. " I say it with pride, because I 
have retained my reason. In reading him, one must 
either lose one's mind or become a seer. Although 
1 have avoided those two forms of madness, I have 
often experienced unfamiliar ecstasy, profound im- 
pressions, inward joys, which naught but the fulness 
of truth, the manifestation of the celestial light, can 
give. Everything here below seems trivial when 
the mind is running through the intense pages of 
these treatises. It is impossible not to be struck 
with amazement when you consider that, within a 
period of thirty years, that man published, on the 
subject of the truths of the spiritual world, twenty- 
five quarto volumes, written in Latin, the smallest 
of which contains five hundred pages, and which 
were all printed in small type. He left twenty 
others in London, it is said, in the hands of his 
nephew, Monsieur Silverichm, formerly chaplain to 
the King of Sweden. Unquestionably, the man who, 
between his twentieth and sixtieth year, exhausted 
himself by the publication of a sort of encyclopaedia, 



SERAPHITA 2IQ 

must have received some supernatural assistance to 
enable him to produce these vast treatises at a time 
of life when man's powers begin to fail. In these 
works there are tens of thousands of numbered 
passages, not one of which is inconsistent with any 
other. In all of them, accuracy, method, clarity of 
reasoning, stand prominently forth, and are attribu- 
table to one and the same fact, the existence of the 
angels. His True Religion, in which his whole doc- 
trine is summed up, a work instinct with vigorous 
intelligence, was conceived and executed at the age 
of eighty-three. Indeed, his universality, his omnis- 
cience, are denied by none of his critics nor by his 
enemies. 

"Nevertheless, when I drank of that torrent of 
celestial knowledge, God did not open my inward 
eyes, and I judged these writings with the cold rea- 
soning of an unregenerate man. So that it has fre- 
quently seemed to me that Swedenborg the INSPIRED 
must sometimes have misunderstood the angels. I 
have laughed at several visions, which I should have 
implicitly believed in and admired, according to the 
seers. I have been unable to form any conception 
of the hornlike writing of the angels, or of their 
girdles, the gold in which is more or less light. For 
example, although the sentence: There are solitary 
angels, moved me strangely at first, on reflection I 
could not see how such solitude was consistent with 
their marriages. I could not understand why the 
Virgin Mary should continue to wear white satin 
garments in heaven. I have ventured to wonder 



220 SERAPHITA 

why the gigantic demons Enakim and Hephilim al- 
ways fought the cherubim in the apocalyptic fields 
of Armageddon. I am at a loss to know how devils 
can still dispute with angels. Baron Seraphitus main- 
tained that those details referred to angels who lived 
on earth in the human form. The visions of the 
Swedish prophet are often marred by grotesque 
figures. One of his Memorabilia, which was the 
name he gave them, begins with these words: 'I 
saw an assemblage of spirits, they had hats on their 
heads.' In another, he receives from heaven a bit 
of paper upon which he sees, so he says, the letters 
used by primitive peoples, consisting of curved lines 
with little rings extending upward. For the better 
attestation of his communication with heaven, one 
might wish that he had deposited that paper with 
the Royal Academy of Sciences of Sweden. But 
perhaps I am wrong, perhaps the material absurdi- 
ties scattered through his works have some spiritual 
meaning. Otherwise, how are we to account for 
the growing influence of his doctrines? His Church 
to-day numbers more than seven hundred thousand 
faithful, as well in the United States of America, 
where different sects coalesce, as in England, where 
there are seven thousand Swedenborgians in the city 
of Manchester alone. Men as distinguished by their 
learning as by their social position, in Germany, in 
Prussia, and in the North, have publicly announced 
their conversion to Swedenborg's doctrines, which 
are more consoling than those of other Christian 
communions. I would that I were able to set forth 



SERAPHITA 221 

in a few succinct words the main points of the 
doctrine laid down by Swedenborg for his church; 
but such a summary, made entirely from memory, 
would necessarily be incomplete. I can only ven- 
ture, therefore, to speak to you of the myste- 
ries which have some connection with Seraphita's 
birth." 

At that point, Monsieur Becker paused and seemed 
to reflect as if to collect his ideas; then he continued 
thus: 

" After he has mathematically demonstrated that 
man lives forever in the infernal as well as in the 
supernal spheres, Swedenborg gives the name of 
angelic spirits to the beings who are prepared in this 
world for heaven, where they become angels. Ac- 
cording to his theory, God did not create angels 
as a special race; there are no angels who have not 
been men on earth. Thus the earth is the nursery 
of heaven. The angels, therefore, are not angels of 
themselves Angelic Virtue, 57; they are trans- 
formed by virtue of an intimate connection with 
God, which God never refuses, the essence of God 
being incessantly active, not negative. Angelic 
spirits pass through three varieties of love, for 
man can become regenerate only by successive de- 
grees True Religion. First, LOVE OF SELF: the 
supreme manifestation of that love is human genius, 
whose productions call forth enthusiastic admiration. 
Second, LOVE OF THE WORLD, which produces 
prophets, the great men whom the world takes for 
guides and hails by the name of divine. Last, LOVE 



222 SERAPHITA 

OF HEAVEN, which produces angelic spirits. Those 
spirits are, so to speak, the flowers of mankind, 
which reaches its highest development in them and 
labors so to develop itself. They must have either 
the love of heaven or the wisdom of heaven; but 
they always pass through love to wisdom. Thus 
the first transformation of man is LOVE. 

" To attain that first step, his previous existences 
must have known the hope and the charity which 
fit him for faith and prayer. The ideas acquired by 
the practice of those virtues are transmitted to each 
new human envelope beneath which are hidden the 
metamorphoses of the INWARD BEING; for none of 
them can be dispensed with, all are essential: hope 
is of no avail without charity, faith has no efficacy 
without prayer; the four faces of that square are 
inseparable. 'For lack of one virtue,' he says, 'the 
angelic spirit is like a shattered pearl.' Each of 
those previous existences, therefore, is a circle in 
which are displayed the celestial treasures of the 
anterior state. The marvellous perfection of the an- 
gelic spirits is due to this mysterious progression 
wherein nothing is Iqst of the qualities successively 
acquired in order to attain their glorious incarnation; 
for, at every transformation, they lay aside, by in- 
sensible degrees, the flesh and its errors. When 
man lives in love, he has abandoned all his evil pas- 
sions: hope, charity, faith, prayer, have, to use the 
expression of Isaiah, fanned his inward being, which 
can no more be polluted by any earthly affection. 
Whence those beautiful words of Saint Luke : Lay 



SERAPHITA 223 

up for yourselves an imperishable treasure in heaven. 
And these words of Jesus Christ: Leave this world 
to men, it is theirs; make yourselves pure and come to 
my father. The second transformation is WISDOM. 
Wisdom is the understanding of the divine things to 
which the spirit attains through love. The spirit of 
love has overcome force; as a result of its victory 
over all earthly passions, it loves God blindly; but 
the spirit of wisdom is intelligent and knows why it 
loves. The wings of the one are unfolded and carry 
it away toward God; the wings of the other are held 
fast to its sides by the terror born of knowledge: 
it knows God. One constantly longs to see God 
and rushes toward Him, the other touches Him and 
trembles. The conjunction of a spirit of love and a 
spirit of wisdom raises the creature to the divine 
state during which his mind is WOMAN, and his body 
is MAN, the supreme development of humanity, in 
which spirit carries the day over form, in which 
form still struggles against the divine spirit; for form, 
that is, the flesh, does not understand, rebels, and 
prefers to remain immature. That supreme test 
causes incredible suffering which Heaven alone sees, 
and which Christ knew on the Mount of Olives. 
After death, the first heaven is thrown open to this 
twofold purified nature. Thus men die in despair, 
while the spirit dies in ecstasy. Thus the NATURAL, 
the state of unregenerate beings; the SPIRITUAL, the 
state of angelic spirits; and the DIVINE, the state of 
the angel before breaking his envelope, are the three 
degrees of existence by which man attains heaven. 



224 SERAPHITA 

A reflection of Swedenborg's will explain to you 
with marvellous clearness the difference between the 
NATURAL and the SPIRITUAL. 

" 'With men,' he says, 'the natural passes into 
the spiritual, they view the world in its visible form, 
and in an atmosphere of reality adapted to their 
senses. But with the angelic spirit, the spiritual 
passes into the natural, it views the world in its 
inward spirit and not in its form.' 

" In like manner, our human knowledge is simply 
an analysis of forms. He whom the world considers 
a learned man is purely exterior, as his learning, his 
inward being, serves no other purpose than to pre- 
serve his aptitude for understanding the truth. The 
angelic spirit goes further than that: its knowledge is 
the thought of which human knowledge is only the 
word; it derives its knowledge of things from Holy 
Writ, by learning the CORRESPONDENCES which 
bring heaven and earth into accord. The WORD of 
God was written throughout with reference to these 
correspondences, it conceals an inward or spiritual 
meaning which cannot be understood without a 
knowledge of the correspondences. ' There are,' 
says Sweden borg, Celestial Doctrine, 26, ' innu- 
merable ARCANA in the hidden meaning of corre- 
spondences.' The men who made sport of the books 
in which the prophets set forth the Word of God were 
in the same condition of ignorance as those men of 
the present day who know nothing of a science and 
make sport of the truths of that science. To be 
familiar with the correspondences between the Word 



SERAPHITA 225 

and the heavens, to be familiar with the correspond- 
ences that exist between the visible and tangible 
things of the earthly world and the invisible and 
intangible things of the spiritual world, is to have 
heaven in one's understanding. All the objects of 
the various creations having emanated from God, 
necessarily intend a hidden meaning, as is said in 
the words of Isaiah: The earth is a garment. This 
mysterious bond between the smallest particle of 
matter and heaven constitutes what Swedenborg 
calls an Arcanum Ccelestium. His Treatise upon the' 
Arcana Ccelestia, in which are explained the corre- 
spondences between the natural and the spiritual 
and their significance, being designed to give the 
signature of everything, to employ the expression of 
Jacob Boehm, contains no less than sixteen volumes 
and thirteen thousand propositions. 

" ' This marvellous knowledge of correspondences, 
which God in His goodness allowed Swedenborg to 
acquire,' says one of his disciples, ' is the secret of 
the interest aroused by these works.' According to 
that commentator, ' there everything is derived from 
heaven, everything reminds one of heaven. The 
prophet's writings are intelligible and sublime: he 
speaks in heaven and makes himself heard on earth; 
one could base a volume on one of his phrases.' 

"And the disciple cites this among a thousand 
others: 

" ' The kingdom of heaven/ says Swedenborg, 
Arcana Ccelestia, ' is the kingdom of motives. AC- 
TION begins in heaven and extends to the earth, and, 
15 



226 SERAPHITA 

by degrees, to the infinitely small things of earth; 
earthly effects being connected with their heavenly 
causes, the result is that everything CORRESPONDS 
and is SIGNIFICANT. Man is the bond of union be- 
tween the natural and the spiritual.' 

" The angelic spirits, then, are, generally speaking, 
acquainted with the correspondence between every 
earthly thing and something in heaven, and know 
the secret meaning of the prophetic words which 
tell of earthly revolutions. And so to those spirits 
everything on earth has its significance. The tiniest 
flower is a thought, a life, which corresponds to some 
features of the great whole, of which they have 
a constant intuitive consciousness. To them the 
ADULTERY and debauchery mentioned by the Scrip- 
tures and the prophets, who are often maltreated by 
self-styled writers, signify the condition of the souls 
of those who on this earth persist in contaminating 
themselves with earthly affections, and thus perpet- 
uate their divorce from heaven. The clouds signify 
the veil in which God wraps himself. The torches, 
the shewbread, the horses and the horsemen, the har- 
lots, the precious stones, everything in the Scripture 
has to them an exquisite meaning, and discloses the 
future of earthly things in their relations with heaven. 
They can all fathom the truth of the ENUNCIATIONS 
of Saint John, which human science eventually dem- 
onstrates and proves; as this one, for instance, which 
is, according to Swedenborg, pregnant with the es- 
sence of several human sciences: I saw a new heaven 
and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth 



SERAPHITA 227 

had passed away. Apocalypse xxi. i. They are fa- 
miliar with the feasts at which the flesh of kings, of 
free men, and of slaves is served, and to which an angel 
standing in the sunlight bids them come. Apocalypse 
xix. 11-18. They see the winged woman, clad in the 
sun's rays, and the man always armed. Apocalypse. 
The horse of the Apocalypse is, says Swedenborg, 
the visible image of human intelligence ridden by 
Death, for it carries the elements of its destruction. 
Lastly, they recognize the nations concealed under 
shapes which seem fanciful to the ignorant. When 
a man is prepared to receive the prophetic insuffla- 
tion of the theory of correspondences, it awakes in 
him the spirit of the Word; he understands then that 
creation is only transformation; it vivifies his intel- 
lect and arouses in him an ardent thirst for the 
truth, which can be slaked only in heaven. He 
comprehends, according to the greater or less degree 
of perfection which his inward sense has attained, 
the power of the angelic spirits, and goes forward, 
guided by desire, the least imperfect condition of un- 
regenerate man, toward hope, which opens to him 
the world of spirits; then he arrives at prayer which 
gives him the key to heaven. What human crea- 
ture would not long to make himself worthy to enter 
the sphere of those intellects which live secretly by 
love or by wisdom ? Here on earth those spirits re- 
main pure during their lives; they do not see nor 
think nor speak like other men. There are two 
kinds of perception: one inward, the other exterior; 
man is all exterior, the angelic spirit is all inward. 



228 SERAPHITA 

The spirit goes to the root of numbers, it under- 
stands them thoroughly, it knows their meanings. 
It governs motion at its pleasure and makes itself a 
part of everything by virtue of its ubiquity. An 
angel, according to the Swedish prophet, appears 
to another whenever he desires Sap. Aug. de Div. 
Am. ; for he has the gift of quitting his body, and 
sees heaven as the prophets saw it, and as Sweden- 
borg himself saw it. 

" ' In that condition,' he says, True Religion, 
136, 'a man's spirit is transported from place to 
place, the body remaining where it is, a condition 
in which I lived for twenty-six years.' 

"We should understand in that sense all those 
passages in the Bible where it is said: The spirit car- 
ried me away. Angelic wisdom is to human wisdom 
what the innumerable forces of nature are to its 
action, which is one. Everything lives, moves, and 
has its being in the spirit, for it is in God; such is 
the thought expressed by Saint Paul's words: In Deo 
sumus, movemur etvivimus. Earth offers no obstacle 
to the spirit, even as the Word offers no obscurity. 
Its approaching divinity enables it to see God's 
thought veiled by the Word; even as the spirit, 
living by its inward perception, communicates with 
the secret meaning hidden under all the things of 
this world. Knowledge is the language of the 
temporal world, love is the language of the spiritual 
world. Man describes more than he explains, while 
the angelic spirit sees and understands. Knowledge 
saddens man, love exalts the angel. Knowledge is 



SERAPHITA 229 

still seeking, love has found. Man judges nature 
according to his relations with it; the angelic spirit 
judges it according to its relations with heaven. 
Moreover, everything speaks to the spirits. The 
spirits are in the secret of the harmony of the various 
creations among themselves; they are in accord with 
the spirit of sound, with the spirit of color, with the 
spirit of plant-life; they can question the mineral, 
and the mineral answers their thoughts. What are 
earthly knowledge and earthly treasures to them, 
when their eyes embrace them all at every moment, 
and when the worlds with which the thoughts of 
so many men are engrossed are to the spirits simply 
the topmost step from which they are about to dart 
upward to God? The love of heaven or the wisdom 
of heaven is indicated in them by the circle of light 
which surrounds them and which the elect can see. 
In their innocence, of which the innocence of chil- 
dren is the outward form, they have a knowledge of 
things which children have not: they are innocent 
and learned. 

"'And/ says Swedenborg, 'the innocence of 
heaven makes such an impression upon the mind, 
that they who are affected thereby retain an ecstatic 
memory of it that endures through life, as I have 
myself experienced. It is sufficient, perhaps,' he 
says again, 'to have only the slightest perception of 
it to be changed forever and to long to go to heaven 
and thus enter the sphere of hope.' 

" His doctrine concerning marriages may be re- 
duced to these few words: 



230 SERAPHITA 

" ' The Lord took the beauty, the refinement, of 
man's life, and transferred it to woman. When man 
is not reunited to the beauty and refinement of his 
life, he is harsh, uncouth, and melancholy; when he 
is reunited to it, he is joyous and happy, he is com- 
plete.' 

" The angels are always perfectly beautiful. Their 
marriages are celebrated by wonderfully impressive 
ceremonies. In those unions, of which no children 
are born, the man gives UNDERSTANDING, the woman 
gives WILL: they become a single being, ONE FLESH 
here on earth; then they go to heaven after assum- 
ing the celestial form. On earth, in the natural 
state of man, the natural inclination of the sexes, for 
each other is an EFFECT which brings weariness and 
distaste in its train; but in their celestial guise, the 
two who have become the same spirit find in them- 
selves a never-failing source of pleasure. Sweden- 
borg witnessed this marriage of spirits, which, 
according to Saint Luke, is no marriage, xx. 35, 
and inspires only spiritual enjoyment. An angel 
offered to allow him to witness a marriage, and bore 
him away upon his wings: the wings are a symbol, 
not a terrestrial reality. He dressed him in his 
festal robe, and when Swedenborg found himself 
clothed in light, he asked why it was. 

"'On these occasions,' the angel replied, 'our 
robes become radiant and shine and become nup- 
tial robes.' Delights of Conjugal Love. 

" Thereupon he saw two angels, one of whom 
came from the south, the other from the east; the 



SERAPHITA 231 

angel from the south rode in a chariot drawn by two 
white horses whose reins were of the color and bril- 
liancy of the dawn; but when they were close by 
him, in the sky, chariot and horses vanished. The 
angel from the east, clad in purple, and the angel 
from the south, clad in hyacinth, rushed together 
like two breezes and were indistinguishably blended: 
one was an angel of love, the other an angel of wis- 
dom. Swedenborg's guide informed him that those 
two angels had been connected on earth by a close 
friendship and had always continued united although 
separated by space. Consent, which is the essen- 
tial of lawful marriages on earth, is the normal 
state of the angels in heaven. Love is the light of 
their world. The everlasting bliss of the angels is 
due to the faculty God bestows upon them of giving 
back to Him the joy that they feel. This infinite 
mutuality of pleasure is their life. In heaven they 
become infinite by partaking the essence of God 
which is born of itself. The immensity of the 
heavens where the angels live is such, that, if man 
were endowed with vision as swift as the light that 
comes from the sun to the earth, and if he should 
gaze throughout all eternity, his eyes would never 
reach a horizon upon which they could rest. The 
light alone suffices to explain the felicity that reigns 
in heaven. It is, he says, Angelic Wisdom, 7, 25, 
26, 27, a vapor of the virtue of God, a pure emana- 
tion of His radiance, in comparison with which our 
bright sunlight is darkness. It can accomplish any- 
thing, it revivifies everything, and is not absorbed; 



232 SERAPHITA 

it envelops the angel and places him in touch with 
God by means of the infinite delights which multi- 
ply endlessly of themselves. That light destroys 
every man who is not prepared to receive it. No 
one on earth, nor even in heaven, can look upon 
God and live. That is why, it is said, Exodus 
xix. 12, 13, 21, 22, 23, that bounds should be set 
about the mountain whereon Moses spake with the 
Lord, lest anyone should touch it and therefore be 
put to death. And again, Exodus xxxiv. 29-35, 
that, when Moses came down from Mount Sinai with 
the two tables of testimony in his hand, his face 
shone so that he was obliged to cover it with a veil, 
so that no one might die while he was speaking to 
the people. The transfiguration of Jesus Christ 
typifies both the radiance shed abroad by a mes- 
senger from heaven and the ineffable bliss that the 
angels experience from being constantly flooded with 
it. His face, says Saint Matthew, xvii. 1-5, shone 
like the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. 
And a bright cloud overshadowed his disciples. And 
so, when a planet contains only beings who deny 
God, when His Word is neglected, when the angelic 
spirits have been summoned from the four corners of 
space, God sends an exterminating angel to trans- 
form the substance of the refractory world which 
is to Him, in the immensity of the universe, what 
an unfruitful seed is in nature. As he approaches 
the globe, the exterminating angel, riding on a 
comet, makes it turn upon its axis: thereupon the 
continents become the bottoms of seas, the loftiest 



SERAPHITA 233 

mountains become islands, and countries formerly 
covered with the waters of the sea reappear in their 
brilliant garb, obeying the laws of Genesis; then the 
Word of God reasserts its power over a new earth 
which retains everywhere the effects of the earthly 
water and the heavenly fire. The light brought by 
the angel from on high makes the sun's light seem 
pale. Thereupon, as Isaiah says, the men enter into 
the clefts of the rocks, they hide their faces in the 
dust. They cry to the mountains: ' Fall upon us!' 
To the sea: 'Take us!' To the air: ' Hide us from 
the fury of the Lamb!' The Lamb is the favorite 
image of the angels who are slighted and persecuted 
on earth. And so Christ said: ' Blessed are they who 
suffer! Blessed are the pure in heart! Blessed are 
they who love!' The whole of Swedenborg's doc- 
trine is found in those words: To suffer, to have 
faith, to love. To love truly, must not one have suf- 
fered, and must not one have faith? Love engenders 
strength, and strength gives wisdom; thence is de- 
rived intelligence; for force and wisdom import will. 
To be intelligent is to have knowledge, wisdom, and 
power, the three attributes of the angelic spirit. 

" ' If the universe has a meaning, it is the mean- 
ing most worthy of God,' said Monsieur Saint-Martin 
to me, when I saw him during his travels in Sweden. 

" But, monsieur," continued Monsieur Becker, 
after a pause, " what significance have these frag- 
ments culled here and there from a work of which 
one can give no idea, save by comparing it to a 
flood of light, to billows of flame? When a man 



234 SERAPHITA 

plunges into it, he is carried away by a terrible cur- 
rent. Dante Alighieri's poem seems a mere speck 
to him who plunges into the innumerable verses in 
which Swedenborg brings the celestial worlds before 
us, as Beethoven built his palaces of harmony with 
myriads of notes, as architects erect their cathedrals 
with myriads of stone. You wander about in bot- 
tomless abysses, where your mind does not always 
sustain you. Surely it is necessary to have a power- 
ful intellect in order to return thence to our social 
ideas, safe and sound. 

"Swedenborg," continued the pastor, "was par- 
ticularly attached to the Baron de Seraphitz, whose 
name, according to an ancient Swedish custom, had 
been written from time immemorial with the Latin 
termination us. The baron was the most ardent 
disciple of the Swedish prophet, who had opened the 
eyes of his inward man, and had formed him for a 
life consistent with the commands from on high. He 
sought an angelic spirit among women, and Sweden- 
borg found such a one for him in a vision. His be- 
trothed was the daughter of a cobbler in London, in 
whom, so said Swedenborg, heavenly life was most 
brilliantly exemplified, and who had passed the pre- 
liminary tests. After the prophet's transformation, 
the baron came to Jarvis to consummate his celestial 
nuptials by prayer. For my own part, monsieur, as 
I am not a seer, I saw only the earthly works of that 
couple: their life was in very truth the life of the 
saints whose virtues are the glory of the Roman 
Church. They both devoted themselves to relieving 



SERAPHITA 235 

the poverty of the people, and supplied them, one 
and all, with such sums as did not indeed enable 
them to live without a little work, but sufficed for 
their absolute needs; the servants who lived with 
them never knew them to exhibit anger or impa- 
tience; they were invariably beneficent and gentle, 
overflowing with amiability, grace, and true good- 
ness; their marriage was the harmonious union of 
two souls never disunited. Two eider-ducks flying 
in company, sound and its echo, thought and its ver- 
bal expression, are, perhaps, imperfect symbols of 
that union. In this place, everyone loved them with 
an affection which can be described only by com- 
paring it to the love of the plant for the sun. The 
woman was simple in her manners, lovely in form 
and feature, and of a noble bearing like that of the 
most august personages. In 1783, in the twenty- 
sixth year of her age, that woman gave birth to a 
child; its coming into the world was an occasion 
of solemn rejoicing. Thus the husband and wife 
bade farewell to the world, for they told me that 
they should undoubtedly be transformed when their 
child should have laid aside the garment of flesh, 
which required their care until the moment when the 
strength to exist by itself should be bestowed upon 
it. The child was born, and was this same Sera- 
phita who is in our minds at this moment; after her 
birth, her father and mother led a more solitary 
life than before, raising themselves heavenward by 
prayer. Their one hope was to see Swedenborg, 
and their faith brought the fulfilment of their hope. 



236 SERAPHITA 

On the day of Seraphita's birth, Swedenborg ap- 
peared in Jarvis and filled with a flood of light the 
room in which the child lay. His words, it is said, 
were these: 

" ' The work is accomplished, the heavens re- 
joice!' 

" The servants in the house heard strangely me- 
lodious sounds which, they said, seemed to be borne 
on the winds from all points of the compass. Sweden- 
borg's spirit beckoned the father from the house and 
led him to the fiord, where it left him. Some of 
the natives of Jarvis, approaching the barn at that 
moment, heard him pronounce these beautiful words 
of Scripture: 

" ' How beautiful upon the mountain are the feet 
of the angel who bringeth good tidings!' 

" I was on my way from the rectory to the cha- 
teau, to baptize the child, christen her, and perform 
the duties which the laws impose upon me, when I 
met the baron. 

"'Your services are not needed,' he said; 'our 
child will have no name on this earth. You shall 
not baptize with the water of the earthly Church 
the child who has been immersed in the flames of 
heaven. That child will remain a flower; you will 
not see it grow old, you will see it pass away; you 
have existence, it has life; you have outward senses, 
it has none; it is all inward.' 

"These words were uttered in a supernatural 
voice by which I was even more deeply affected 
than by the radiance stamped upon his face, which 



SERAPHITA 237 

exuded light. His appearance realized the fantastic 
images we conceive of the inspired prophets, as we 
read the prophetic books of the Bible. But such 
effects are not rare among our mountains, where the 
nitrogen contained in the everlasting snow produces 
extraordinary phenomena in our organizations. I 
asked him the cause of his excitement. 

" ' Swedenborg has been with me, I have just left 
him, I have breathed the air of heaven/ he replied. 

" ' In what shape did he appear to you?' I asked. 

'"In his mortal shape, dressed as he was the last 
time I saw him, in London, at Richard Shearsmith's 
house, in the district called Coldbath Fields, in July, 
1771. He wore his ratteen coat of changeable color, 
with steel buttons, his waistcoat buttoned to the 
throat, his white cravat, and the same magisterial 
wig with powdered rolls at the sides and the hair 
brushed back in front in such way as to display that 
noble, luminous brow, so fully in harmony with his 
great square face, in which all is power and tranquil- 
lity. I recognized that nose with its broad nostrils 
breathing fire; I saw once more that mouth which 
always smiled, that angelic mouth, whence these 
words issued, fraught with happiness for me: "We 
shall soon meet again!" And I felt the splendor of 
the celestial love.' 

"The conviction that shone in the baron's face 
forbade all argument, and I listened to him in 
silence; his voice had a contagious warmth which 
made my entrails glow, his fanaticism stirred my 
heart as another's anger makes one's nerves tingle. 



238 SERAPHITA 

I followed him in silence to his house, where I saw 
the nameless child lying upon her mother, who held 
her in a mysterious embrace. Seraphita heard me 
enter, and raised her head to look at me; her eyes 
were not like those of an ordinary child; I cannot 
describe the impression they made upon me better 
than by saying that they seemed to see and think 
already. That predestined child's infancy was ac- 
companied by climatic conditions most extraordinary 
in our latitude. For nine years our winters were 
milder and our summers longer than usual. That 
phenomenon caused much discussion among scientific 
men; but, although their explanations may have 
seemed convincing to the members of the Academy, 
the baron smiled when I reported them to him. 
Seraphita was never seen naked as children some- 
times are; she was never touched by man or woman; 
she lived upon her mother's breast and never cried. 
Old David will confirm these statements if you ques- 
tion him concerning his mistress, for whom he has 
an adoration like that which the king whose name 
he bears had for the Ark of the Covenant. At the 
age of nine, the child began to devote herself to 
prayer: prayer is her life; you saw her in our little 
temple at Christmas, the only day she comes there; 
she stands at some distance from the other Christians 
there. If there is not that distance between herself 
and her fellow-men, she suffers. For that reason 
she remains at the chateau most of the time. The 
incidents of her life are not known; she rarely shows 
herself; her faculties, her sensations all are inward; 



SERAPHITA 239 

she passes the greater part of the time in the state 
of mystic meditation usual, say the popish writers, 
among the early Christian hermits, in whom the 
tradition of the Word of Christ still lived. Her 
understanding, her soul, her body, everything about 
her is as spotless as the snow upon our mountains. 
At ten years of age, she was just as you see her now. 
When she was but nine, her father and mother died 
together, painlessly, without apparent disease, having 
foretold the hour at which they should cease to live. 
Standing at their feet, she looked at them with a calm 
eye, with no indication of sadness or grief or joy or 
curiosity; her father and mother smiled upon her. 
When we came to take away the bodies, she said: 

" ' Take them away!' 

" ' Seraphita,' I said, for we have always called 
her so, ' pray, are you not grieved by the death of 
father and mother? they loved you so dearly!' 

" ' Death?' said she. 'Why, no; they are in me 
forever. These are nothing,' she added, pointing 
without the slightest emotion to the bodies that were 
being removed. 

" That was the third time I had seen her since 
her birth. It is difficult to distinguish her in the 
temple, for she stands beside the pillar which sup- 
ports the pulpit, in a shadow which makes it impos- 
sible to see her features. Of those who had been 
servants in the family, the only one remaining at the 
time of that event was old David, who, despite his 
eighty-two years, sufficed for his mistress's needs. 
Some of the Jarvis people have told marvellous 



240 SERAPHITA 

stories about this girl. As their tales have acquired 
a certain currency in a country essentially fond of 
mysteries, I have undertaken to study Wier's Trea- 
tise upon Incantations, and works relating to demon- 
ology, in which are narrated alleged supernatural 
effects in man, trying to find some facts analogous 
to those which are attributed to her." 

" Then you do not believe in her?" queried Wil- 
frid. 

" Indeed, no," replied the pastor good-humoredly; 
"in my eyes she is an extremely capricious girl, 
spoiled by her parents, who turned her head with 
the religious ideas I have just sketched." 

Minna made a motion with her head expressive of 
mild negation. 

"Poor girl!" continued the pastor, "her parents 
bequeathed to her the deplorable mental exaltation 
which leads persons of a mystical turn astray and 
makes them more or less mad. She restricts herself 
to a diet that drives poor David to despair. That 
excellent old man resembles a fragile plant which 
sways in the slightest breeze, which blooms in the 
slightest ray of sunlight. His mistress, whose in- 
comprehensible language he has adopted, is his wind 
and his son; in his eyes, her feet are of diamonds and 
her brow is studded with stars; she walks encircled 
by a luminous white atmosphere; her words are ac- 
companied by music; she has the power of making 
herself invisible. Ask to see her: he will tell you 
that she is travelling among the stars. It is diffi- 
cult to believe in such fables. As you know, every 



SERAPHITA 241 

miracle resembles more or less the story of the 
Golden Tooth. We have a golden tooth in Jarvis, 
that's the whole of it. For instance, Duncker the 
fisherman declares that he has sometimes seen her 
dive into the fiord and come out in the form of an 
eider-duck, and sometimes walking on the waves 
during a storm. Fergus, who drives the flocks to 
the soekrs, says that he has noticed that, in rainy 
weather, the sky is always bright above the Swe- 
dish chateau, and always blue over Seraphita's head 
when she comes out. Many women hear the notes 
of an immense organ when Seraphita comes into the 
temple, and ask their neighbors in all seriousness if 
they do not hear them too. But my daughter, of 
whom Seraphita has seemed very fond for two years 
past, has heard no music, nor has she smelt the 
heavenly perfumes with which they say the air is 
laden when she goes out to walk. Minna has often 
returned home overflowing with artless girlish ad- 
miration of the beauties of our spring; she has 
seemed intoxicated by the fragrance exhaled by the 
first buds of the larches, pines, or flowers, which they 
had breathed together; but, after such a long winter, 
nothing can be more natural than that excessive en- 
joyment. There is nothing very extraordinary in 
this demon's society, is there, my child?" 

"His secrets are not mine," replied Minna. 
"With him, I know everything; away from him, I 
know nothing: with him, I cease to be myself; away 
from him, I entirely forget that blissful life. To see 
him is a dream, the memory of which abides with 
16 



242 SERAPHITA 

x 

me or not, as he pleases. I have heard when with 
him, but forgotten when away from him, the music 
to which Bancker's wife and Erikson's refer; with 
him, I have smelt celestial perfumes and seen mar- 
vellous things, and I lose all remembrance of them 
here." 

"The thing that has surprised me most since I 
have known her," said the pastor, addressing Wil- 
frid, " is her allowing you to be with her." 

" With her!" said the young man; " she has never 
let me kiss her, or even touch her hand. When she 
saw me for the first time, her glance cowed me; she 
said to me: ' Welcome to this place, for you were 
destined to come.' She seemed to know me. I 
trembled. Fear made me believe in her." 

"And love made me," said Minna, without a 
blush. 

"Are you not laughing at me?" said Monsieur 
Becker, laughing good-naturedly; "you, my daugh- 
ter, in claiming to be a spirit of love, and you, mon- 
sieur, in making yourself out a spirit of wisdom?" 

He drank a glass of beer, and did not notice the 
singular glance Wilfrid bestowed upon Minna. 

" Joking aside," the minister resumed, " I was 
very greatly surprised to learn that to-day, for the 
first time, these two madcaps have been to the sum- 
mit of the Falberg; is it anything more than the 
exaggeration of a couple of girls who have climbed 
some little hill? It is impossible to reach the sum- 
mit of the Falberg." 

"Father," said Minna, in a voice denoting deep 



SERAPHITA 243 

emotion, "then I must have been in the demon's 
power, for I climbed the Falberg with him." 

" This is becoming serious," said Monsieur Becker; 
"Minna has never told a falsehood." 

" Monsieur Becker," rejoined Wilfrid, " I give you 
my word that Seraphita exerts such extraordinary 
power over me that I know of no words that will 
convey an idea of it. She has told me things that 
nobody but myself could possibly know." 

" Somnambulism!" rejoined the old man. " Sev- 
eral occurrences of that nature are reported by Wier 
as phenomena readily explainable, and observed long 
ago in Egypt." 

"Lend me Swedenborg's theosophical works," 
said Wilfrid; " I am anxious to plunge into those 
abysses of light, you have given me a thirst for 
them." 

Monsieur Becker handed a volume to Wilfrid, who 
at once began to read. It was about nine o'clock. 
The servant appeared to serve supper. Minna made 
the tea. The repast at an end, all three became 
deeply engrossed, the pastor reading the Treatise 
upon Incantations, Wilfrid imbibing the spirit of 
Swedenborg and Minna sewing, lost in her mem- 
ories. It was a true Norwegian evening party, 
peaceful, studious, full of thought, of flowers under 
the snow. As he devoured the pages of the prophet, 
Wilfrid ceased to live by his external senses. Now 
and then the pastor, with a half-serious, half-laugh- 
ing expression, called Minna's attention to him, 
whereupon she smiled with a sort of sadness. 



244 SERAPHITA 

Meanwhile, Seraphitus's face, hovering over the 
cloud of smoke that enveloped all three of them, 
smiled upon Minna. 

The clock struck twelve. The outer door was 
violently thrown open. Heavy, precipitate steps, 
the steps of a terrified old man, were heard in the 
narrow anteroom between the two doors. Then 
David abruptly appeared in the parlor. 

"Violence! violence!" he cried. "Come! come all! 
The demons are unloosed ! they have mitres of fire 
on their heads! There are Adonises, Vertumnuses, 
sirens! they are tempting him as Jesus was tempted 
on the mountain. Come and drive them away!" 

" Do you recognize Swedenborg's language? there 
you have it unadulterated," laughed the pastor. 

But Minna and Wilfrid gazed in terror at old David, 
who, his white hair flying, wild-eyed, his legs trem- 
bling and covered with snow, for he had come with- 
out snow-shoes, stood there swaying to and fro as 
if a mighty wind were blowing upon him. 

" What has happened?" Minna asked him. 

" Why, the devils hope and intend to reconquer 
him." 

Those words made Wilfrid's heart beat fast. 

"For nearly five hours she has been standing with 
her eyes raised to heaven and arms outstretched; 
she suffers, she cries out to God. I cannot pass the 
bounds of the circle, hell has stationed Vertumnuses 
as sentinels. They have built walls of fire between 
her and her old David. If she needs me, what shall 
I do? Help me! come and pray!" 



SERAPHITA 245 

The poor old man's despair was horrible to see. 

" The radiance of God defends her; but suppose 
she should yield to violence?" he continued, with 
fascinating good faith. 

" Silence! David, do not talk nonsense! This is a 
statement to be verified. We will accompany you," 
said the pastor, " and you will see that there are 
neither Vertumnuses, nor devils, nor sirens in your 
house." 

"Your father is blind," said David to Minna in 
an undertone. 

Wilfrid, upon whom the reading of one of Sweden- 
borg's earlier treatises, which he had rapidly run 
through, had produced a most prodigious effect, was 
already in the corridor, engaged in putting on his 
snow-shoes. Minna was ready in a moment. They 
left the two old men behind and hurried away toward 
the Swedish chateau. 

" Do you hear that cracking?" said Wilfrid. 

"The ice in the fiord is moving," replied Minna; 
" but the spring will soon be here." 

Wilfrid was silent. When they were both in the 
courtyard, they did not feel that they had either 
the ability or the strength to enter the house. 

" What do you think of her?" asked Wilfrid. 

"What a brilliant light!" cried Minna, as she 
took her place in front of the window of the salon. 
" There he is! my God, how handsome he is! O my 
Seraphitus, take me!" 

The girl's exclamation was entirely mental. She 
saw Seraphitus standing, lightly enveloped in an 



246 SERAPHITA 

opal-colored mist which escaped from that almost 
phosphoric body. 

" How lovely she is!" cried Wilfrid, also mentally. 

At that moment, Monsieur Becker arrived, followed 
by David; he saw his daughter and the stranger 
standing in front of the window, stood beside them, 
looked into the salon, and said: 

"Well, David, she is saying her prayers." 

" But just try to go in, monsieur." 

"Why disturb those who are praying?" replied 
the pastor. 

At that moment, the moon rose over the Falberg 
and its beams fell upon the window. They all 
turned, impressed by that natural phenomenon, 
which startled them; but when they turned again 
to look at Seraphita, she had disappeared. 

"That is very strange!" said Wilfrid in surprise. 

"I heard entrancing sounds!" said Minna. 

"Well, what of it?" said the pastor; "she has 
gone to bed, no doubt." 

David had entered the house. They returned 
to the rectory in silence; no two of them understood 
the meaning of that vision in the same way: Mon- 
sieur Becker was sceptical, Minna adored, Wilfrid 
desired. 

Wilfrid was a man of thirty-six. Although very 
fully developed, his proportions were not inhar- 
monious. He was of medium height, like almost all 
men who raise themselves above their fellow-men; 
his chest and shoulders were broad and his neck 
was short, like that of a man whose heart seems to 



SERAPHITA 247 

be near his head; his hair was black and thick and 
fine; his eyes, of a light-brown shade, possessed a 
sunlike brilliancy which showed how eagerly his 
nature longed for the light. Although his virile, ex- 
cited features were lacking in the inward calmness 
imparted by a life without storms, they indicated 
the inexhaustible resources of impetuous feelings 
and the appetites of instinct; just as his motions 
indicated the perfection of physical conformation, 
the flexibility of the muscles and the fidelity of their 
play. That man might contend with the savage, 
hear like him the step of a foe far away in the forest, 
scent his presence in the air, and detect a friend's 
signal on the horizon. He slept lightly, like all crea- 
tures who do not wish to be surprised. His body 
speedily placed itself in harmony with the climate of 
the countries to which his adventurous life led him. 
Art and science would have admired that man's 
organization as a model for mankind; in him all 
things were in equilibrium: impulse and heart, intel- 
lect and will. 

At first, it seemed as if he should be classed among 
the purely instinctive beings who abandon them- 
selves blindly to their material needs; but, in the 
morning of his life, he had found his way into 
the social circle to which his feelings guided him; 
study had broadened his intelligence, meditation had 
sharpened his thought, the sciences had enlarged his 
understanding. He had studied human laws, the 
action of selfish interests brought into play by 
passions, and seemed to have made himself familiar 



248 SERAPHITA 

early in life with the abstract ideas upon which so- 
cieties rest. He had grown pale over books, which 
are the dead acts of mankind; then he had passed 
sleepless nights in European capitals amid festivals; 
he had awakened in more beds than one; he had 
slept, it may be, upon the battle-field during the 
night preceding the combat and the night following 
the victory; it may be that, in his stormy youth, he 
had sailed to the most strikingly contrasted por- 
tions of the globe on the deck of a corsair; thus he 
was familiar with the living acts of mankind. He 
knew the present and the past, the history of an- 
cient times and of to-day. Many men have been, 
like Wilfrid, equally strong in hand and heart and 
head; like him, the majority of them have abused 
their threefold power. But, even if that man were 
still allied to the degraded portion of humanity by 
his outer envelope, he certainly belonged in equal 
degree to the sphere where force is intelligent. 
Despite the veils in which his mind enveloped itself, 
there were to be seen in him those indescribable 
symptoms that are visible to the eye of pure crea- 
tures, of children whose innocence has felt the 
breath of no evil passion, of the old man who has 
regained his innocence; those marks denoted a Cain 
who still retained some hope, and who seemed to be 
seeking absolution in some form at the ends of the 
earth. Minna suspected in that man the galley- 
slave of renown, and Seraphita knew him to be 
such; both admired and pitied him. Whence came 
their prescience? Nothing could be more simple and 



AN EVENING AT THE PASTOR'S 



The repast at an end, all three became deeply 
engrossed, the pastor reading the Treatise upon In- 
cantations, Wilfrid imbibing the spirit of Swedenborg 
and Minna sewing, lost in her memories. It was a 
true Norwegian evening party. 



I 




SERAPHITA 249 

at the same time more extraordinary. As soon as 
man attempts to fathom the secrets of nature, where 
nothing is secret, where it is simply a question of 
seeing, he discovers that there the simple produces 
the marvellous. 

" Seraphitus," said Minna one evening, a few 
days after Wilfrid's arrival at Jarvis, " you read this 
stranger's mind, while I receive only vague im- 
pressions from him. He either freezes me or warms 
me; but you seem to know the cause of that cold or 
warmth; you can tell me what it is, for you know 
everything about him." 

"Yes, 1 have seen the causes," said Seraphitus, 
lowering his broad lids over his eyes. 

" By what power?" asked the inquisitive Minna. 

"I have the gift of specialization," he replied. 
"Specialization constitutes a sort of inward sight 
which penetrates everything; you can understand 
its extent only by a comparison. In the great cities 
of Europe, from which come works in which the 
hand of man strives to represent the effects of 
the moral nature as well as those of the physical 
nature, there are men of sublime talent who express 
ideas with marble. The sculptor works upon the 
marble: he shapes it, and expresses a world of 
thoughts therein. There are statues upon which 
the hand of man has bestowed the power to repre- 
sent an entire sublime or evil side of humanity; 
most men see therein a human figure and nothing 
more; others, occupying a position somewhat higher 
on the ladder of human beings, detect a portion of the 



250 SERAPHITA 

thoughts translated by the sculptor, they admire 
the shape of the figure; but they who are initiated 
in the secrets of the art all fully understand the 
sculptor: when they look upon his work, they rec- 
ognize the whole world of his thoughts. They are 
the princes of art, they bear within themselves a 
mirror in which nature is reflected in its most mi- 
nute details. Even so there is within me a mirror in 
which the moral nature, with its causes and effects, 
is reflected. I divine the future and the past by 
thus penetrating the mind. How? you will ask me 
again. Let the marble statue be the body of a man, 
let the sculptor be sentiment, passion, vice or crime, 
virtue, sin, or repentance; then you will understand 
how I have been able to read the stranger's mind, 
without, however, being able to explain specializa- 
tion to you; for, to understand that gift, one must 
possess it." 

Although Wilfrid was allied to the first two branches 
of mankind, utterly distinct as they are, to the men 
of force and the men of thought, his excesses, his 
restless life and his errors, had often led him in 
the direction of faith; for doubt has two sides, the 
side of light and the side of darkness. Wilfrid had 
pressed the world too close in its two forms, mind 
and matter, not to suffer from the thirst for the un- 
known, from the desire to go beyond, with which all 
men are attacked who have knowledge, power, and 
will. But his knowledge, his acts, his will, were 
without any guidance. He had shunned social life 
from necessity, as the great culprit seeks the cloister. 



SERAPHITA 251 

Remorse, that virtue of the weak, did not assail 
him. Remorse is a species of helplessness, it will sin 
again. Repentance alone is a force, it puts an end to 
everything. But Wilfrid, while travelling over the 
world which he had taken for his cloister, had found 
balm for his wounds nowhere; he had seen nowhere 
a nature to which he could cling. In him despair had 
dried up the springs of desire. He was one of those 
men who, having fallen out with the passions and 
found themselves the stronger, have nothing more 
to squeeze in their gripe; who, in default of an op- 
portunity to place themselves at the head of some 
of their equals to trample entire peoples under their 
horses' feet, would purchase at the price of a horrible 
martyrdom the power to ruin themselves for a belief: 
sublime cliffs, so to speak, awaiting the touch of a 
magic wand which would make their far-off springs 
gush forth anew, but which does not come. 

Led by a scheme of his restless, inquisitive life 
among the roads of Norway, winter had surprised 
him at Jarvis. On the day when he first saw Sera- 
phita, that meeting caused him to forget his past life. 
The girl awoke intense sensations which he believed 
to be beyond resuscitation. The ashes emitted one 
last flame, and blew away at the first sound of that 
voice. Who has ever experienced the sensation of 
becoming young and pure once more after he had 
grown cold in old age and defiled himself in impurity? 
Suddenly, Wilfrid loved as he had never loved before; 
he loved secretly, with intense faith, with terror, 
with secret frenzy. His life was stirred to its very 



252 SERAPHITA 

source at the mere thought of seeing Seraphita. 
When he heard her voice, he was transported to 
unfamiliar worlds; he was dumb in her presence, 
she fascinated him. In that desolate spot, under 
the snow, among the fields of ice, that celestial 
flower had grown to maturity upon its slender stalk; 
that flower which was the goal of all his aspiration, 
hitherto ungratified, and the sight of which aroused 
the fresh ideas, the hopes, the feelings, that cluster 
about us to bear us away to higher regions, as the 
angels bear the elect away to heaven in the symbolic 
pictures suggested to painters by some familiar genius. 
A divine perfume softened the granite of that rock, a 
light endowed with speech shed upon him the divine 
melodies that accompany the traveller in his heaven- 
ward journey. Having drained to the dregs the cup 
of earthly love which his teeth had broken, he saw 
before him the chosen vessel in which gleamed limpid 
waves and which makes one thirst for joys that are 
never-ending for him who can touch it with lips suf- 
ficiently imbued with faith to avoid shattering the 
crystal. He had found that wall of brass to be sur- 
mounted which he had sought throughout the world. 
He went impulsively to Seraphita, with the purpose 
of describing to her the bearing of a passion beneath 
which he was as restive as the horse in the fable 
beneath the bronze rider whom nothing disturbs, 
who sits firmly in his saddle, and whom the efforts 
of the fiery beast serve only to make more burden- 
some and heavier. He went to her to depict the 
grandeur of his soul by the grandeur of his errors, 



SERAPHITA 253 

to show her the ruins of his desert places; but, when 
he had passed the outer walls of the chateau and 
found himself within the vast zone embraced by 
those eyes, whose sparkling azure encountered no 
limits to their vision, he became as calm and submis- 
sive as the lion who, as he rushes upon his prey in 
an African desert, receives a love-message on the 
wings of the wind and stops. He opened for him- 
self an abyss into which the words of his frenzy fell, 
and from which issued a voice which changed his 
nature: he was a child again, a child of sixteen, 
timid and fearful before that girl with the tranquil 
brow, before that white figure whose unalterable 
calmness resembled the cruel impassiveness of hu- 
man justice. And the battle had never ceased until 
that evening, when she had at last overthrown him 
with a single glance, as a hawk, after describing a 
series of bewildering spirals around its prey, lets it 
fall stupefied to the ground before carrying it away 
to its nest. Long conflicts take place within us, 
ending in one of our acts, and forming a sort of re- 
verse side of man's nature. That reverse side is 
turned toward God, the other toward men. 

More than once, Seraphita had amused herself by 
proving to Wilfrid that she was acquainted with 
that reverse side, different in different individuals, 
which constitutes a second life with most men. She 
had often said to him, in her turtle-dove voice: 
" Why all this anger?" when Wilfrid had registered 
a vow to carry her away in order to make her his 
own property. Wilfrid alone was strong enough 



254 SERAPHITA 

to utter the cry of rebellion to which he had given 
vent at Monsieur Becker's, and which the old man's 
narrative had quieted. That mocking, insolent man 
saw at last the dawn of a starlike faith breaking upon 
his darkness; he asked himself if Seraphita were 
not an exile from higher spheres returning to her 
native country. He did not simply decree the honor 
of deification, which lovers abuse in all countries, to 
this Norwegian lily, he believed in her. Why did 
she remain on the shore of that fiord ? what was she 
doing there? Questions that were left unanswered 
abounded in his mind. Above all, what would come 
to pass between them? What fate had guided him 
thither? To him Seraphita was the marble statue, 
motionless but light as a shadow, which Minna had 
seen standing on the brink of the chasm: so Sera- 
phita stood on the brink of every chasm, unmoved, 
without the quiver of an eyelid, without the slight- 
est fear in her eye. Thus his was a love without 
hope, but not devoid of curiosity. From the moment 
that Wilfrid suspected the ethereal nature of the 
sorceress who had told him the secret of her life 
in blissful dreams, he determined to try to subdue 
her, to keep her, to steal her from heaven where 
perhaps her coming was awaited. He would repre- 
sent the human race, the earth resuming possession 
of its prey. His pride, the only sentiment whereby 
man can be exalted for long, would make him happy, 
because of that triumph, for the rest of his life. At 
that thought, his blood boiled in his veins, his heart 
swelled. If he did not succeed, he would tear her 



SERAPHITA 255 

to pieces. It is so natural to destroy what one 
cannot possess, to deny what one does not under- 
stand, to decry what one envies! ' 

The next day, Wilfrid, his mind filled by the 
thoughts certain to be suggested by the extraordi- 
nary spectacle he had witnessed the preceding night, 
determined to question David, and went to see him, 
on the pretext of asking for news of Seraphita. 
Although Monsieur Becker believed that the poor 
man was in his dotage, the stranger trusted to his 
own perspicacity to detect the morsels of truth that 
would be poured forth by the old servant in the 
torrent of his divagations. 

David had the stolid, weak face of the octogena- 
rian: below his gray hair was a brow upon which 
the wrinkles formed long ruined hummocks; his 
face was hollowed out like the dry bed of a moun- 
tain torrent. His life seemed to have taken refuge 
entirely in the eyes, wherein a ray of light still 
gleamed; but that gleam was veiled by clouds, as it 
were, and suggested the restless wildness as well as 
the stupid fixity of intoxication. His slow, heavy 
movements indicated the frosts of age and communi- 
cated them to anyone who looked steadfastly at him 
for a long while, for he possessed the force of torpor. 
His limited intelligence awoke only at the sound 
of his mistress's voice, or at the sight or thought of 
her. She was the soul of that wholly material frag- 
ment. Seeing David alone, you would have said 
that he was a corpse: but if Seraphita appeared or 
spoke or were mentioned then the dead came forth 



256 SERAPHITA 

from his tomb, he recovered motion and speech. 
Never was the apocalyptic image of the dried bones 
restored to life in the valley of Jehosaphat more fully 
realized than by that Lazarus constantly recalled to 
life from the grave by the girl's voice. His language, 
always figurative, often incomprehensible, prevented 
the natives from talking with him; but they felt the 
instinctive reverence of the common people for one 
who had wandered so far from the beaten track. 

Wilfrid found him in the outer room, apparently 
asleep by the stove. Like a dog who knows the 
friends of the family, the old man raised his eyes, 
recognized the stranger, and did not stir. 

"Well, where is she?" Wilfrid inquired, taking a 
seat beside the old man. 

David moved his fingers in the air, as if to de- 
scribe the flight of a bird. 

" Is her suffering at an end?" asked Wilfrid. 

" Only those creatures who are promised to heaven 
know how to suffer without their love being dimin- 
ished by suffering; that is the sign of true faith," re- 
plied the old man, gravely, as a musical instrument 
gives forth a note when touched at random. 

"Who told you that?" 

"The Spirit." 

"What happened to her last night? Did you 
force your way by the Vertumnuses who acted as 
sentries? did you glide in among the Mammons?" 

" Yes," replied David, as if waking from a dream. 

The confused vapor of his eyes melted away 
before a ray of light that came from his mind and 



SERAPHITA 257 

gradually made them as bright as an eagle's, as 
intelligent as a poet's. 

" What did you see?" queried Wilfrid, amazed by 
that sudden transformation. 

" I saw Species and Forms, I heard the Spirit of 
Things, I saw the rebellion of the Bad, I listened to 
the speech of the Good ! There were seven demons 
and seven archangels come down from heaven. 
The archangels were at a distance, they looked on 
with veils over their faces. The demons were near 
at hand, they were brilliantly arrayed and active. 
Mammon came on his mother-of-pearl shell, in the 
shape of a lovely nude woman; his body was daz- 
zling in its snowy whiteness, no human form will 
ever be so perfect, and he said: ' I am Pleasure, and 
thou shalt possess me!' Lucifer, the prince of ser- 
pents, came in his regal garb, the man in him was 
as beautiful as an angel, and he said: 'Mankind shall 
wait upon thee!' The queen of misers, she who 
never gives up anything she has received, the Sea, 
arrived, wrapped in her green cloak; she bared her 
bosom, she showed her casket of precious stones, 
she vomited forth her treasures and offered them; 
she summoned waves of sapphires and emeralds; 
her products bestirred themselves, they came forth 
from their hiding-places, they spoke; the fairest 
among the pearls unfolded her butterfly wings, gave 
forth a bright light, and sang her music of the sea; 
she said: ' Daughters of suffering both, we are 
sisters; wait for me! we will go together, I have but 
to become a woman.' The bird with the wings of 
17 



258 SERAPHITA 

the eagle and the claws of the lion, a woman's head, 
and the rump of a horse, the Animal, stooped and 
licked her feet, promising seven hundred years of 
abundance to his beloved daughter. The most to be 
feared of all, the Child, crawled to her knees, weep- 
ing and saying to her: ' Wilt thou leave me, weak 
and ill as I am? stay with me, mother!' He played 
with the others, he diffused sloth through the air, 
and heaven itself would have listened to his lament. 
The sweet-voiced Virgin warbled her melodies that 
relax the soul. The kings of the East came with 
their slaves, their armies, and their wives; the 
Wounded appealed to her for help, the Unfortunate 
held out their hands to her: ' Do not leave us! do not 
leave us!' Even I myself cried: 'Do not leave us! 
we adore you, stay!' The flowers came forth from 
their seeds, surrounding her with their perfumes, 
which said: 'Stay!' The giant Enakim came from 
Jupiter, bringing Gold and his friends, bringing the 
spirits from the astral worlds that are connected with 
him, and one and all said to her: ' We will be thine 
for seven hundred years.' Lastly, Death alighted 
from his white horse, and said: 'I will obey thee!' 
They all prostrated themselves at her feet, and if 
you could have seen them! they filled the vast plain, 
and all cried out to her: ' We reared thee; thou art 
our child, do not desert us!' Life came forth from 
its red waters, and said: ' I will never leave thee!' 
And then, as Seraphita remained silent, it gleamed 
like the sun, crying: ' I am the light!' 'The light is 
there!' cried Seraphita, pointing to the clouds where 



SERAPHITA 259 

the archangels were waving their arms; but she was 
tired, Desire had shattered her nerves, she could 
only cry: ' O my God!' How many angelic spirits, 
as they climbed the mountain and were almost at the 
summit, have trodden upon a pebble which threw 
them down and hurled them back into the abyss! 
All those fallen spirits admired her steadfastness; 
they stood there, a motionless chorus, and one and 
all, weeping, said to her: ' Have courage!' At last, 
she conquered the Desire by which she had been 
beset in all shapes and in every guise. She knelt 
in prayer, and when she raised her eyes, she saw 
the feet of the angels flying back to heaven." 

" She saw the feet of the angels?" repeated Wil- 
frid. 

" Yes," said the old man. 

" Has she been describing a dream to you?" 

"A dream as real as the dream of your life," re- 
plied David; " I was there." 

The old servant's calm manner impressed Wilfrid, 
who went away wondering if such visions were less 
extraordinary than those described in the writings of 
Swedenborg, which he had read the night before. 

"If spirits really exist, they must act," he said 
to himself, entering the parsonage, where he found 
Monsieur Becker alone. 

" Dear pastor," said Wilfrid, " Seraphita is allied 
to us only in form, and her form is impenetrable. 
Do not look upon me as a lunatic or a man in love: 
it is of no use to discuss a conviction. Transform 
my faith and scientific conjectures, and let us seek 



260 SERAPH1TA 

enlightenment. To-morrow we will both call upon 
her." 

" Well?" said Monsieur Becker. 

" If her eye knows nothing of space," continued 
Wilfrid, "if her thought is a faculty of intelligent 
insight which enables her to embrace all things in 
their essence and to connect them with the general 
evolution of worlds; if, in a word, she knows and 
sees everything, let us seat the pythoness upon her 
tripod, let us compel that inexorable eagle to unfold 
her wings by threatening her! Assist me! I am 
breathing a fire which consumes me, I am determined 
either to extinguish it or to allow myself to be con- 
sumed. In short, I have discovered a victim, I pro- 
pose to have her." 

" It would be a very difficult conquest to accom- 
plish," said the minister, "for the poor girl is " 

"Is?" queried Wilfrid. 

" Mad," said the minister. 

" I do not deny her madness, do not you deny her 
superiority. Dear Monsieur Becker, she has often 
confounded me by her erudition. Has she trav- 
elled?" 

" From her house to the fiord." 

" She has not been away from the place!" cried 
Wilfrid; "then she must have read a great deal?" 

" Not a leaf, not a word ! I am the only person in 
Jarvis who has books. The works of Swedenborg, 
the only books in the village, are here. She has 
never borrowed one of them." 

" Have you ever tried to talk with her?" 



SERAPHITA 26l 

" What would be the use?" 

" Has no one ever lived under her roof?" 

" She has had no other friends than you and 
Minna, no other servant than David." 

" Has she never heard of the sciences, the arts?" 

" From whom?" queried the pastor. 

" If she talks intelligently of all these things, as she 
has often talked with me, what do you think of it?" 

" That the child has perhaps acquired, during sev- 
eral years of silence, the faculties enjoyed by Apol- 
lonius of Tyana and many alleged sorcerers who 
were burned by the Inquisition, as it refused to 
admit the existence of second-sight." 

" If she can talk Arabic, what would you think?" 

" The history of medical science records several 
instances of girls who have spoken languages un- 
known to them." 

" What is to be done?" said Wilfrid. " She knows 
things in my past, the secret of which was known 
to myself alone." 

" We shall see if she can tell me certain thoughts 
which I have not whispered to anyone," said the 
pastor. 

Minna entered the room. 

"Well, my child, what has become of your de- 
mon?" 

"He is suffering, father," she replied, nodding 
to Wilfrid. " Human passions, clad in their false 
splendor, encompassed him during the night and 
dazzled him with the incredible magnificence of their 
display. But you treat such things as fables." 



262 SERAPHITA 

" Fables as fascinating to him who reads them in 
his brain as the Thousand and One Nights to the 
ordinary mind," said the pastor, smiling. 

"Did not Satan," she continued, "carry the 
Saviour to the summit of the Temple and show him 
the nations at his feet?" 

" The evangelists," replied the pastor, " did not 
correct their proofs so well that there are not several 
versions of the incident in existence." 

" Do you believe in the reality of these visions?" 
Wilfrid asked Minna. 

" Who can doubt when he describes them?" 

"He?" queried Wilfrid. " Who?" 

" He who is over yonder," Minna replied, pointing 
to the chateau. 

"Are you speaking of Seraphita?" said the stran- 
ger in amazement. 

The girl hung her head, casting a mildly mis- 
chievous glance at him. 

" So you also take pleasure in confusing my ideas," 
said Wilfrid. "Who is she? what do you think of 
her?" 

"What I feel is inexplicable," replied Minna, 
blushing. 

"You are both mad!" cried the pastor. 

"Until to-morrow!" said Wilfrid. 



IV 



THE CLOUDS OF THE SANCTUARY 

There are spectacles in which all the material 
splendors which man has at his disposal co-operate. 
Nations of slaves and divers have sought in the sands 
of the sea, in the bowels of high cliffs, the pearls and 
diamonds which adorn the audience. Handed down 
from generation to generation, those splendors have 
gleamed upon all crowned heads in succession, and 
could tell the most truthful of histories if they could 
speak. Do they not know the joys and sorrows of 
the great as well as the small? They hive been 
worn everywhere: they have been worn with pride 
at high festivals, carried in despair to the money- 
lender, carried away in blood and pillage, trans- 
ported into the masterpieces produced by art in order 
to immortalize them. Save Cleopatra's pearl, not 
one of them has ever been lost. The great and 
the fortunate are assembled to witness the corona- 
tion of a king, whose robes are the product of man's 
industry, but who in all his glory is clad in a pur- 
ple less perfect than that of a humble wild-flower. 
These festivals, gorgeous with light, girt about with 
(263) 



264 SERAPHITA 

music, where man's voice strives to drown the up- 
roar, all these triumphs of his hand are made as 
naught by a thought, a sentiment. The mind can 
assemble around man and in man more brilliant 
lights, can assail his ears with more melodious 
strains, can seat him upon the clouds of gleaming 
constellations which he questions: the heart can do 
even more! Man may meet face to face a single 
creature and find in a single word, in a single glance, 
a burden so heavy to bear, a light so dazzling, a 
sound so penetrating, that he gives way and kneels. 
The most real splendors are not in things, they are 
in ourselves. To the scholar a secret of science is a 
whole world of wonders. But is his festival accom- 
panied by the trumpets of power, the parade of 
wealth, the music of joy, and an immense concourse 
of men? No; he goes to some dark corner, where 
frequently a pale and sickly man whispers a single 
word in his ear. That word, like a torch thrown 
into an underground passage, illumines the sciences 
for him. All human ideas, dressed in the most 
alluring forms mystery has invented, surrounded a 
blind man seated in the filth by a roadside. The 
three worlds, the natural, the spiritual, and the 
divine, with all their divisions, made themselves 
manifest to a poor Florentine exile: wherever he 
went, he was attended by the happy and the suffer- 
ing, by those who prayed and those who wept, by 
angels and by the damned. When the messenger of 
God, omniscient and omnipotent, appeared to three 
of his disciples, it was at the common table of the 



SERAPHITA 265 

meanest of taverns, on a certain evening; at that 
moment, the light burst forth, blurred all material 
outlines, illumined the spiritual faculties; they beheld 
him in all his glory, and already the earth had no 
more hold upon their feet than a loosened sandal. 
Monsieur Becker, Wilfrid, and Minna were con- 
scious of a feeling of dread as they walked toward 
the abode of the extraordinary being whom they had 
agreed to interrogate. In the eyes of each of them, 
the Swedish chateau, increased in size by their 
imaginations, resembled a gigantean spectacle, like 
those in which the materials and colors are so 
cunningly, so harmoniously arranged by poets, and 
the characters, imaginary personages in the eyes of 
ordinary mortals, are real to those who are begin- 
ning to acquire an insight into the spiritual world. 
On the benches of that coliseum, Monsieur Becker 
placed the gray legions of doubt, its gloomy ideas, 
its vicious formulas for disputation; he summoned 
thither the different philosophical and religious worlds 
which are at odds with one another, and all of which 
appear in the guise of a gaunt and fleshless system, 
as Time is represented by man, an old man who 
holds the scythe in one hand, and in the other carries 
a weak and fragile world, the human world. Wilfrid 
summoned thither his earliest illusions and his latest 
hopes; he installed there human destiny and its con- 
flicts, religion and its triumphant domination. Minna 
had an indistinct vision of heaven through a cleft, 
love raised for her a curtain adorned with mysteri- 
ous images, and the melodious strains that reached 



266 SERAPHITA 

her ears redoubled her curiosity. Thus, to these 
three, that evening was what the supper was to 
the three pilgrims in Emmaus, what a vision was 
to Dante, an inspiration to Homer; to them the three 
forms of the world were revealed, veils torn away, 
uncertainties banished, dark places made light. 
Humanity in all its phases, awaiting the light, could 
have been no more fully represented than by that 
maiden, that young man, and those two old men, 
one of whom was learned enough to doubt, the other 
ignorant enough to believe. Never was any scene 
more simple in appearance, more far-reaching in 
reality. 

When they entered, ushered in by old David, they 
found Seraphita standing by the table, upon which 
were the different articles composing "a tea," a 
refection which, in the North, takes the place of the 
joys of wine, more appropriate to southern countries. 
Certainly nothing in his, or her, appearance denoted 
a being who possessed the strange power to appear 
in two distinct shapes, nor was there anything to 
indicate the various powers which she had at her 
disposal. Giving her attention in the most conven- 
tional way to the comfort of her guests, she ordered 
David to put wood in the stove. 

" Good-evening, neighbors," she said. " My dear 
Monsieur Becker, I am very glad that you have come; 
you see me really alive for the first time, perhaps. 
This winter has killed me. Pray be seated, mon- 
sieur," she said to Wilfrid. "And do you, Minna, 
sit there," he continued, pointing to an easy-chair 



SERAPHITA 267 

beside the young man. "I see you have brought 
your embroidery; have you learned the stitch? The 
pattern is very pretty. For whom is it? your father 
or monsieur?" she said, turning to Wilfrid. "Shall 
we not give him, before he goes, a souvenir of the 
girls of Norway?" 

" Were you ill again yesterday?" Wilfrid asked. 

" It is nothing," was the reply. " I enjoy the 
suffering; it is necessary before one can leave life 
behind." 

" Then the thought of death does not terrify 
you?" said Monsieur Becker, with a smile, for he did 
not believe that she was ill. 

" No, dear pastor. There are two ways of dying: 
to some, death is a victory; to others, a defeat." 

" Do you think that you have won the victory?" 
asked Minna. 

" I do not know," she replied; " perhaps it will 
be only a step further." 

The milk-white splendor of her forehead darkened, 
her eyes vanished behind the slowly drooping lids. 
The movement, simple as it was, touched and awed 
the three curious guests. Monsieur Becker was the 
boldest. 

"My dear girl," he said, "you are innocence 
itself; but you are also endowed with divine kindli- 
ness; I would ask of you this evening something 
more than the delicacies of your tea-table. If we are 
to believe certain persons, you know some extraor- 
dinary things; now, if that be so, would it not be 
charitable in you to dissolve some of our doubts?" 



268 SERAPHITA 

"Ah!" she rejoined, with a smile, "I walk upon 
the clouds, I am on the best of terms with the preci- 
pices along the fiord, the sea is a steed which I have 
broken to harness, I know where the flower grows 
that sings, where the light shines that speaks, where 
the flowers live and bloom that perfume the air; I 
have Solomon's ring, I am a fairy; I toss my com- 
mands to the wind, which executes them like a 
humble slave; I discover treasures underground; 
I am the virgin whom the pearls fly to meet, 
and" 

"And we climb the Falberg without danger," said 
Minna, interrupting her. 

"And you, too!" replied the strange being, with 
a piercing glance at the girl, which filled her heart 
with vague anxiety. "If I had not the power to 
read behind your brows the desire that brings you 
here, should I be what you believe me to be?" she 
said, enveloping them all three in her all-pervading 
glance, to the intense satisfaction of David, who 
rubbed his hands as he went from the room. "Ah!" 
she continued, after a pause, " you are all impelled 
by a childlike curiosity. You asked yourself, my 
poor Monsieur Becker, if it were possible for a girl 
of seventeen to know one of the numberless secrets 
which scientists seek to discover, with their noses to 
the ground, instead of raising their eyes to heaven! 
If I should tell you how and by what the plant is 
connected with the animal, you would begin to doubt 
your own doubts. You have formed a plot to question 
me, have you not?" 



SERAPH1TA 269 

"Yes, dear Seraphita," replied Wilfrid; " but is it 
not a natural desire for men to feel?" 

"Do you want to weary this child, pray?" she 
said, laying her hand caressingly on Minna's hair. 

The girl raised her eyes, and seemed to long to 
blend her whole being with Seraphita's. 

"Speech is the gift of all mankind," said the 
mysterious creature, gravely. " Woe to him who 
should remain silent in the midst of the desert, 
thinking that no one could hear him: everything 
speaks and everything listens here below. Speech 
moves worlds. I wish, Monsieur Becker, to say 
nothing in vain. I know the difficulties which most 
engross your thoughts: would it not be a miracle to 
begin by describing the whole past of your con- 
science? Be it so; the miracle is about to be per- 
formed. Listen. You have never acknowledged 
your doubts in their full extent; I alone, steadfast in 
my faith, can describe them to you and make you 
afraid of yourself. You are on the darkest side of 
doubt; you do not believe in God, and everything on 
this earth becomes of secondary importance to him 
who attacks the foundation of things. Let us 
abandon the fruitless discussions inaugurated by 
false systems of philosophy. The spiritualistic gen- 
erations have made no less vain efforts to deny 
matter than the materialistic generations have made 
to deny the spirit. Why these disputes? Does not 
man offer irrefutable proofs of both systems? are 
not things material and things spiritual blended in 
him? Only an idiot can refuse to see a fragment of 



2/0 SERAPHITA 

matter in the human body; upon analyzing it, your 
natural sciences find few differences between its 
organism and that of other animals. The idea to 
which the comparison of several objects gives birth 
in man no longer seems to anyone to be within the 
domain of matter. I am not now giving my own 
views your doubts, not my certainties, are my sub- 
ject. To you, as to most thinkers, the relations 
that you are enabled to discover between objects 
whose reality is attested by your sensations do not 
seem to you to be material. 

" Thus the natural world of things and persons is 
bounded in man by the supernatural world of the 
similarities or distinctions which he detects between 
the innumerable shapes of nature relations so mul- 
tiplied that they seem to be infinite; for if no man 
hitherto has been able even to enumerate terrestrial 
creations, who could enumerate their interrelations? 
Is not the small fraction of them with which you are 
acquainted to their sum total as a finite number is to 
infinity? At that point, you already obtain a glimpse 
of the infinite, which must surely enable you to con- 
ceive a purely spiritual world. Thus mankind pre- 
sents a sufficient proof of the two forms, matter and 
spirit. In man, a visible, finite world attains com- 
pletion; in him, an invisible, infinite world begins, 
two worlds that do not know each other: have the 
stones in the fiord any knowledge of their combina- 
tions, of the colors they present to man's eyes? do 
they hear the music of the waves that caress them? 
Let us cross, without measuring its depth, the abyss 



SERAPHITA 271 

presented by the union of a material universe and 
a spiritual universe, a visible, substantial, tangible 
creation, bounded by an invisible, unsubstantial, in- 
tangible creation; utterly unlike, separated by the 
great void, united by undeniable bonds of sympathy, 
and found in conjunction in a being who partakes 
of the nature of both! Let us blend together in a 
single world these two worlds which your philosoph- 
ical systems cannot reconcile, but which are recon- 
ciled by the fact. However abstract man may deem 
it to be, a relation between two things necessarily 
implies a stamp. Where? upon what? We have 
not reached the point of inquiry as to how far matter 
may be refined. If such were the question, I do not 
see why He who, to make a veil for Himself, bound 
together by physical resemblances the stars that lie 
immeasurably distant from one another, could not 
have created thinking substances, nor why you 
should deny Him the power to give a body to 
thought! 

" Thus your invisible moral universe and your 
visible physical universe constitute one single body. 
We do not separate bodies and their properties, nor 
objects and their relations. Whatever exists, what- 
ever presses upon us and overwhelms us, above, 
below, before, or within us, whatever our eyes 
and our minds perceive, all those things, named 
and unnamed, constitute, in order that the problem 
of the creation may be adapted to the measure of 
your logic, a finite mass of matter; if it were infinite, 
God would no longer be the master. According to 



272 SERAPHITA 

your view, dear pastor, however one may seek to 
reconcile an infinite God with that finite mass of 
matter, God could not exist with the attributes with 
which He is invested by man; if you seek Him in 
facts, He is of no consequence; if you seek Him 
in the reason, He will still be of no consequence; 
spiritually and materially, God becomes impossible. 
Let us listen to the words of human wisdom carried 
to their final consequences. 

" When we bring God face to face with this great 
whole, there are but two possible methods of viewing 
their relations to each other. Either God and matter 
are contemporaneous, or God alone existed before 
matter. Assuming all the knowledge that has en- 
lightened the human race since it came upon the 
earth to be collected in a single brain, even that 
gigantic brain could not conceive a third relationship 
unless by suppressing both God and matter. Let 
human philosophy pile up mountains of words and 
ideas, let religions accumulate images and creeds, 
revelations and mysteries, they must come at last 
to this terrible dilemma and choose between the 
two propositions of which it is composed; but you 
have not to choose: both alike lead the human 
mind to doubt. The problem being thus stated, of 
what account are spirit and matter? what matters 
the progress of the two worlds in one direction or 
the other, from the moment that the being who 
guides them is convicted of absurdity? What prof- 
its it to inquire whether man is advancing toward 
heaven or receding from it, whether creation is 



SERAPHITA 273 

ascending toward the spirit or descending toward 
matter, when the worlds that we question make 
no reply? What do theogonies and their armies 
signify, or theologies and their dogmas, when, no 
matter which of the two aspects of the problem 
man may choose, his God is no more? Let us 
glance at the first hypothesis, let us suppose God 
to be contemporaneous with matter. Is nothing 
more necessary to be God than to submit to the 
action or the coexistence of a substance foreign to 
its own ? In such a system does not God become a 
mere secondary agent, compelled to organize matter? 
Who compelled Him? Who was the arbiter between 
His vulgar companion and Himself? Who paid that 
Great Artist his wages for the six days' labor attrib- 
uted to Him? If there should be discovered some 
decisive force which was neither God nor matter, 
seeing that God is required to manufacture the ma- 
chinery that moves the world, it would be as absurd 
to call that force God as to call the humble slave 
sent to turn a grindstone a Roman citizen. 

" Moreover, we encounter a difficulty as insoluble 
to that supreme intellect as it is to God. To go back 
a little further, are we not like the Hindoos, who 
place the world on a tortoise and the tortoise on an 
elephant, but cannot tell us what the elephant's feet 
rest upon? Can that supreme will, resulting from 
the combat between God and matter, can that God 
greater than God have bided an eternity without de- 
creeing what He at last decreed, assuming that eter- 
nity can be divided into two periods? No matter 
18 



2/4 SERAPHITA 

where God may be, if He did not know what His 
subsequent thought would be, is not His intuitive 
intelligence an impossibility? Which of these two 
eternities, then, will triumph? will it be the un- 
created eternity, or the created eternity? If He 
decreed that the world should be for all time as it 
is, that fresh necessity, which is quite in harmony 
with the conception of a sovereign intelligence, im- 
plies the coeternity of matter. Whether matter be 
coeternal by virtue of a divine power necessarily the 
same at all times, or whether it be coeternal in itself, 
the power of God, since it must be absolute, dies 
with His free will; it would find always in Him a 
convincing force of reasoning that would dominate 
it. Is nothing more necessary to be God than to be 
no better able to differentiate one's self from one's 
creation in a subsequent than in an antecedent 
eternity? Is that aspect of the problem insoluble 
as to its cause? Let us examine it in its effects. 
"If it is impossible to understand God as being 
forced to make the world for all eternity, it is quite 
as impossible to understand Him in His perpetual co- 
hesion with His work. God, compelled to live forever 
with His creation, is quite as degraded as in His first 
state of workman. Can you imagine a God who can 
no more be independent of His work than dependent 
upon it? Can He destroy it without casting reproach 
upon Himself? Consider, choose. If He does destroy 
it some day, if He never destroys it, either horn of 
the dilemma is fatal to the attributes without which 
He could not exist. Is the world an experiment, a 



SERAPHITA 275 

perishable shadow which will some day be destroyed? 
In that case, would not God be inconsistent and im- 
potent? Inconsistent: for must He not have known 
the result before making the experiment, and why 
does He delay to crush what He is determined to 
crush? Impotent: for would He have created an 
imperfect world? If an imperfect creation negatives 
God's possession of the faculties mankind attributes 
to Him, let us return to the question: assume the 
creation to be perfect. The idea is in harmony with 
that of a God of sovereign intelligence who cannot 
have erred in anything; but in that case why the 
degradation ? why the regeneration ? 

"Again, the perfect world is necessarily inde- 
structible, it can never perish; the world neither 
goes forward nor recedes, it revolves in an eternal 
circle from which it will never deviate. Therefore 
God will be dependent on His work; therefore it 
is coeternal with Him; which brings us back to one 
of the propositions which attack the idea of God 
with the greatest force. Imperfect, the world may be 
supposed to advance, to improve; but, if perfect, it is 
stationary. If it is impossible to conceive a progres- 
sive God, who does not know the history of His 
creation for all time to come, is there a stationary 
God? is not that the triumph of matter? is it not 
the most momentous of all negations? In the first 
hypothesis, God perishes through weakness; in the 
second, He perishes through the vis inertice. Thus, 
in the conception as well as in the construction of 
worlds, to every straightforward mind the assumption 



276 SERAPHITA 

that matter is contemporaneous with God is equiv- 
alent to a denial of God. Compelled to choose 
between the two branches of this problem in con- 
nection with the government of peoples, whole gen- 
erations of great thinkers have chosen this. Hence 
the dogma of the two tenets of Magianism, which 
passed from Asia into Europe in the form of Satan 
contending with the Eternal Father. But do not 
that religious formula and the innumerable deifica- 
tions that owe their origin to it constitute the crime 
of divine 'lese-majeste ? By what other name can 
we call the belief that puts forward as a rival to 
God the personification of Evil struggling forever be- 
hind the efforts of His omnipotent intelligence, with 
no possibility of triumph? Your statics tells you that 
two forces in that relative position neutralize each 
other. 

''Will you turn to the second branch of the prob- 
lem? God first existed, absolutely alone. 

"Let us not repeat the foregoing arguments, 
which recur in all their force in connection with the 
division of eternity into two periods, uncreated time 
and created time. Let us also lay aside the questions 
suggested by the progress or immobility of worlds; 
let us be content with the difficulties inherent in this 
second theme. If God existed first, alone, then the 
world emanated from Him, then matter was produced 
from His essence. Let us hear no more of matter, 
therefore! all material forms are veils behind which 
the Divine Spirit lies hidden. But in that case, the 
world is everlasting, in that case the world is God ! 



SERAPHITA 277 

Is not that proposition even more fatal than the 
preceding one to the attributes imputed to God by 
human knowledge? Can the present state of matter 
be explained if it came forth from God's bosom and 
is joined to Him forever? How can we believe that 
the Omnipotent, sovereignly kind in His essence and 
His faculties, has given birth to things which do not 
resemble Him, that He does not everywhere and in 
all respects resemble Himself? Can it be that there 
were some vile portions of His being which He cast 
off one day? a conjecture less insulting and absurd 
than terrible in its consequences, because it brings 
us back to the two principles which the preceding 
argument proves to be untenable. God must be 
ONE, He cannot be divided without renouncing the 
most important of His powers. 

" It is impossible, therefore, to conceive a fraction 
of God which is not God. That hypothesis seemed 
so criminal to the Church of Rome that it made 
the presence of God in the smallest morsel of the 
Eucharist an article of its faith. How, then, can one 
conceive an omnipotent intelligence which does not 
triumph? How attach it, without instant triumph, 
to nature? And that nature searches, plans, re- 
stores, dies, and is born again; it is even more per- 
turbed when it creates than when everything is in 
a state of fusion; it suffers, groans, shuts its eyes, 
does evil, goes astray, blots itself out, disappears, 
begins anew. How can we justify the almost uni- 
versal misapprehension of the divine principle? Why 
does death exist? why was the genius of Evil, that 



278 SERAPHITA 

monarch of the earth, brought forth by a God of sov- 
ereign kindliness in His essence and His faculties, who 
should have produced nothing that is not in conform- 
ity with Himself? But if, from this irreconcilable re- 
sult, which leads us, first of all, to an absurdity, we 
pass to details, what end can we assign to the world? 
If everything is God, everything is both effect and 
cause; or rather there is no cause and no effect: 
everything is ONE like God, and you can discover 
no point of departure or of arrival. Can the real 
end be a rotation of matter in the constant process 
of refinement? In whatever direction it might take 
place, would it not be the merest child's play, the 
evolution of that matter that came forth from God 
returning to God again? Why should He vulgarize 
Himself? In what shape is God most godlike? Which 
is in the right, matter or spirit, when neither of the 
two can be in the wrong? Who can recognize God 
in that incessant toil in which He must divide Him- 
self into two natures, one of which knows nothing, 
the other everything? Can you imagine God amus- 
ing Himself in human shape with His own perform- 
ances, laughing at his own efforts, dying on Friday 
to be born again on Sunday, and continuing the jest 
from century to century, knowing from all eternity 
what the end of all things is to be? telling Himself as 
the creature nothing of what He does as Creator? 

" The God of the second hypothesis, powerless by 
the force of His inertia, seems more possible, if we 
must choose between impossibilities, than this idiot- 
ically jesting God who fires upon Himself when two 



SERAPHITA 279 

bodies of men confront each other with arms in their 
hands. However absurd this extreme application of 
the second branch of the problem, it was adopted by 
half of the human race, among the nations who wor- 
shipped smiling gods. Those amorous nations were 
consistent: with them everything was God, even 
fear and its dastardly consequences, even crime and 
its bacchanalia. If we accept pantheism, the re- 
ligion of some great human intellects, who knows 
where the right is then to be found? Is it with the 
free savage in the desert, clad in his nakedness, sub- 
lime and always just in his acts whatever they may 
be, listening to the sun, talking with the sea? Or 
is it with the civilized man who owes his greatest 
pleasures to falsehoods, who twists and crowds na- 
ture in order to throw a musket over his shoulder, 
who has abused his intellect in order to hasten the 
hour of his death and to invent diseases in all his 
pleasures? When the rake of pestilence or the 
ploughshare of war, when the genius of the deserts 
passed over a corner of the globe, destroying every- 
thing in its path, which triumphed, the Nubian 
savage, or the patrician of Thebes? Your doubts 
descend from top to bottom. They embrace every- 
thing, the end as well as the means. If the physical 
world seems inexplicable, the moral world proves 
even more against God. 

" Where, then, is progress? If everything is pro- 
gressing toward perfection, why do we die when chil- 
dren? why do not nations, at least, live forever? Is 
the world, the issue of God and contained in God, 



280 SERAPHITA 

stationary? Do we live but once? do we live al- 
ways? If we live but once, hurried onward by the 
march of the Great Whole, knowledge of which has 
not been vouchsafed to us, let us live as we please! 
If we are immortal, let us swim with the tide! Can 
the creature be blameworthy for existing at the mo- 
ment when transitions occur? If it sins at the 
moment of a great transformation, will it be pun- 
ished after having been its victim? What are we to 
think of the divine goodness which does not set us 
down at once in the realms of happiness, if there be 
any such? What of God's prescience if He does 
not know the results of the tests to which He sub- 
jects us? What is this alternative presented to man 
by all religions, between boiling in an everlasting cal- 
dron and walking about in a white robe, with a palm- 
branch in one's hand and a halo about one's head? 
Can it be that that heathen invention is the last word 
of a true God? Moreover, what generous mind does 
not deem virtue prompted by self-interest unworthy 
of man and of God, the virtue that looks forward 
to an eternity of pleasure promised by all religions to 
him who complies for a few hours of his life with 
certain fantastic and often unnatural conditions? Is 
it not absurd to endow a man with fierce passions 
and to forbid him to gratify them? But of what use 
are these feeble objections when good and evil are 
equally annulled? Does evil exist? If matter in all 
its forms is God, then evil is God. The reasoning 
faculty, as well as the sentient faculty, being given 
to man to use, nothing can be more natural than to 



SERAPHITA 28l 

seek a meaning for human sorrows and to question 
the future; if this straightforward, strict reasoning 
leads to such a conclusion, what confusion results! 

" So this world has no stability: nothing goes 
forward, nothing pauses, everything changes and 
nothing is destroyed, everything returns after being 
restored; for, if your mind does not point out to you 
a definite end, it is equally impossible to point to 
the annihilation of the smallest particle of matter: 
it can change its form, but cannot destroy itself. If 
blind force gives the victory to the atheist, intelli- 
gent force is inexplicable; for, emanating from God, 
should not its triumph be instantaneous if it en- 
counters obstacles? Where is God? If the living 
do not see Him, will the dead find Him? Crumble, 
idolatries and religions! Fall, ye too weak key- 
stones of all the social arches that have failed to 
delay either the downfall, the death, or the oblivion 
of all nations of past time, however firmly they may 
have been established ! Fall, ye codes of morals 
and of laws! our crimes are purely relative, they are 
divine results whose causes are unknown to us! 
Everything is God. Either we are God, or God is 
not! Old man, child of an age whose every year 
has placed upon your brow the hoar-frost of its in- 
credulity, this is the sum of your learning and your 
long meditations. Dear Monsieur Becker, you have 
laid your head on the pillow of doubt, finding there 
the most convenient of all solutions of the problem, 
acting in harmony with the majority of the human 
race, who say to themselves: ' Let us think no more 



282 SERAPHITA 

of the problem, inasmuch as God has not vouchsafed 
to grant us an algebraic formula for its solution, 
whereas He has granted us so many to enable us 
to find our way surely from the earth to the stars.' 
Are not those your secret thoughts? Have I evaded 
them? Have I not, on the contrary, set them 
forth clearly? Whether it be the dogma of the two 
basic principles, an antagonism wherein God be- 
comes impossible from the very fact that, being 
all-powerful, He condescends to contend for the 
supremacy, or the absurd pantheism wherein God 
ceases to exist because everything is God, those 
two sources whence are derived the religions for 
whose triumph the earth has put forth its energies 
are equally pernicious. Thus is the two-edged axe 
cast between us, the axe with which you cut off the 
head of that white-haired old man enthroned by you 
upon painted clouds. Now, the axe is mine!" 

Monsieur Becker and Wilfrid glanced at each 
other with a sort of terror. 

"Faith," continued Seraphita, in her woman's 
voice, for the man had spoken hitherto, "faith is 
a gift! To believe is to feel. To believe in God one 
must feel God. That feeling is a faculty slowly ac- 
quired by a mortal, as the marvellous powers are 
acquired which you admire in great men, warriors, 
artists, and scholars, those who know, those who 
produce, those who act. Thought, a union of the 
relations you observe between things, is a mental 
language which must be learned, is it not? Faith, 
a union of divine truths, is also a language, but 



SERAPHITA 283 

as superior to thought as thought is to instinct. 
That language, too, must be learned. The believer 
answers by a single cry, a single gesture ; faith, 
places in his hands a flaming sword with which 
he severs, illumines everything. The seer is not 
one who has come back to earth from heaven; he 
gazes at the sky and holds his peace. There is a 
creature who believes and sees, who has knowledge 
and power, who loves and prays and waits. Re- 
signed, aspiring to the realms of light, that creature 
has neither the disdain of the believer nor the silence 
of the seer; it listens and replies. To it, the doubt of 
the dark ages is not a deadly weapon, but a guiding 
thread; it accepts the battle in all its forms; it adapts 
its tongue to all languages ; it does not fly out in 
anger, it pities; it neither condemns nor kills any- 
one, it saves and comforts; it has not the bitterness 
of the aggressor, but the gentleness and modesty of 
the light that penetrates, warms, and illumines every- 
thing. In its eyes, doubt is neither impiety, blas- 
phemy, nor a crime, but a state of transition from 
which man either retraces his steps toward the 
darkness or goes forward toward the light. Let us 
reason, therefore, dear pastor. 

"You do not believe in God. Why? God, in 
your opinion, is incomprehensible, inexplicable. 
Agreed. I will not say to you that to understand 
God in His entirety would be to be God; I will not 
remind you that you deny what seems inexplicable 
to you, in order that I may claim the right to affirm 
the truth of what seems to me worthy of faith. It 



284 SERAPHITA 

is to you a self-evident fact of which you find the 
proof in yourself. In you, matter ends in knowl- 
edge; and do you think that human knowledge 
should end in darkness, doubt, negation? Even if 
God seems incomprehensible, inexplicable to you, 
you will at least confess that you detect in every- 
thing purely physical the hand of a consistent and 
sublime workman. Why should His logic stop at 
man, His most finished creation? If this question is 
not convincing, it certainly calls for some reflection. 
If you deny God, luckily, in order to establish your 
doubts, you must recognize certain double-edged 
facts which destroy your arguments quite as effec- 
tually as your arguments destroy God. 

"We have both admitted that matter and spirit 
are two distinct creations which do not include each 
other, that the spiritual world is made up of an 
infinite number of abstract relations to which the 
finite material world gives birth; that, if no one on 
earth had ever been able to identify himself, by 
virtue of the overshadowing power of his mind, 
with the sum total of earthly creations, so much 
the more certain is it that no one could rise so high 
as to understand the relations which the mind ob- 
serves between those creations. For instance, we 
might put an end to the discussion in a moment by 
denying you the power to understand God, just as 
you deny the stones in the fiord the power to see 
and to count themselves. Can you say that those 
very stones do not deny man, although he takes 
them to build his houses? It is a fact that crushes 



SERAPHITA 285 

you, the infinite ; if you feel it within you, how 
can you fail to admit its consequences? can the 
finite have a thorough knowledge of the infinite? If 
you cannot grasp the relations which, by your own 
admission, are infinite, how will you grasp the dis- 
tant purpose to which they all tend? Order, the 
revelation of which is one of your requirements, 
being infinite, can your limited reason understand it? 
And do not ask why man cannot understand what 
he can see, for he also sees what he does not 
understand. If I prove to you that your mind is 
ignorant of everything within its range, will you 
grant me that it is impossible for it to grasp what 
is beyond its range? Shall I not in that case have 
the right to say to you: ' One of the conditions 
under which God loses His cause before the tribunal 
of your reason must be true, the other is false; as 
creation exists, you feel the necessity of an end for 
which it exists; must not that end be a noble one? 

" ' Now, if matter in man ends in intelligence, why 
will you not be content with the knowledge that the 
goal of human intelligence is the light of the upper 
spheres for which is reserved the intuitive compre- 
hension of that God who seems to you to be an in- 
soluble problem? The animal species below you in 
the scale of creation do not understand the distinction 
between the material and spiritual worlds, and you 
do; why should there not be other species above you 
more intelligent than yours? Before employing his 
energies in taking God's measure, should not man 
be better informed than he is about himself? Before 



286 SERAPHITA 

threatening the stars that give him light, before at- 
tacking certainties that are beyond his understand- 
ing, should he not establish the certainties that 
directly concern him?' But to the negations of 
doubt I ought to reply by negations. Now, there- 
fore, 1 ask you if there is anything here on earth 
sufficiently evident in itself for me to put faith in it? 
In a moment, I propose to prove to you that you 
believe implicitly in things which act but are not hu- 
man beings, which engender thought but are not 
minds, in living abstractions which the understanding 
cannot grasp in any shape, which are nowhere, but 
which you find everywhere; which have no possi- 
ble name, but which you have named; which, like 
the fleshly God whom you imagine, perish before the 
incomprehensible, the inexplicable, and the absurd. 
And I will ask you how it is that you accept these 
things, and reserve all your doubts for God. You 
believe in number, the foundation upon which you 
rest the edifice of those sciences which you call 
exact. Without number, no more mathematics. 

" Very well; what mysterious being, even though 
he should be accorded the privilege of living forever, 
could finish naming, in what language could he name 
with sufficient speed, the number which would con- 
tain the infinite numbers whose existence is demon- 
strated to you by your mind? Ask the greatest of 
all human geniuses, and what reply would he make 
after sitting beside a table for a thousand years with 
his head in his hands ? You know neither where num- 
ber begins, nor where it stops, nor when it will end. 



SERAPHITA 287 

Here you call it time; there you call it space; nothing 
exists except by it; without it all creation would be 
a single uniform substance, for it alone differentiates 
and modifies. Number is to your mind what it is to 
matter, an incomprehensible agent. Will you make 
it a god? is it a human being? is it a breath ema- 
nating from God to organize the material universe, 
where nothing obtains its form except by virtue of 
the divisibility which is an effect of number? Are 
not the smallest as well as the vastest creations dis- 
tinguished from one another by their quantities, 
their qualities, their dimensions, their forces, all of 
which are attributes to which number gives birth? 
The infinitude of numbers is a fact proved to your 
satisfaction, but of which no material proof can be 
given. The mathematician will tell you that in- 
finitude of numbers exists, that it is not proved. 
God, dear pastor, is a number endowed with move- 
ment, which is felt, not proved, so the believer will 
tell you. Like unity, He is the beginning of a series 
of numbers with which He has nothing in common. 
The existence of number depends upon unity, which, 
while not itself a number, engenders all numbers. 
God, dear pastor, is a glorious unity who has noth- 
ing in common with His creations, and who, never- 
theless, engenders them all. Confess, therefore, 
that you are as ignorant of the beginning and end 
of created eternity as of the beginning and end of 
number. Why, if you believe in number, do you 
deny God? Does not creation stand between the 
infinity of inorganic substances and the infinity of 



288 SERAPHITA 

divine spheres, just as unity stands between the 
infinity of fractions which you have lately begun 
to call decimal, and the infinity of numbers which 
you call integers? You alone upon earth understand 
number, that first step of the staircase that leads to 
God, and already your mind stumbles. What! you 
can neither measure the first abstract idea that God 
submits to you, nor grasp it, and yet you propose 
to apply your measure to God's purposes? What 
would happen, pray, if I should plunge you into the 
abyss of motion, the force that organizes number? 
For instance, if I say to you that the universe is 
nothing but number and motion, you see that we are 
already speaking a different language. I understand 
them both, and you do not understand them. What 
would result, then, if 1 should add that motion and 
number are engendered by the Word ? Of that Word, 
the supreme argument of the seers and prophets who 
heard long ago that breath from God beneath which 
Saint Paul fell, of that Word you men make sport, al- 
though all your visible works, societies, monuments, 
deeds, and passions proceed from your feeble word, 
and although, without speech, you would resemble 
that species of animal that so closely resembles the 
negro, the man-ape. Thus you firmly believe in mo- 
tion and in number, an inexplicable, incomprehensi- 
ble force and result, as to the existence of which I 
can propound the same dilemma which just now was 
your excuse for not believing in God. Will not you, 
powerful reasoner that you are, excuse me from 
proving to you that the infinite must be always like 



SERAPHITA 289 

itself, and that it is necessarily one? God alone is 
infinite, for surely there cannot be two infinities. 
If, to employ the words of men, anything whose ex- 
istence is proved to you here on earth seems to you 
to be infinite, be certain that you are face to face 
with some phase of God. Let us pass on. 

" You have appropriated to yourself a place in 
the infinity of number, you have adapted it to your 
measure by creating, assuming that you can create 
anything, arithmetic, the foundation upon which 
everything rests, even your social systems. Just 
as number, the only thing in which your so-called 
atheists believe, organizes the physical creations, so 
does arithmetic, the handmaid of number, organize 
the moral world. This numeration must be abso- 
lute, like everything that is true in itself; but it is 
purely relative, it has no absolute existence, you 
can bring forward no proof of its reality. In the 
first place, although this numeration is clever in 
computing organized substances, it is impotent so far 
as the organizing forces are concerned, the former 
being finite, the latter infinite. Man, who by virtue 
of his intelligence conceives the existence of the in- 
finite, could not handle it in its entirety; could he 
do so, he would be God. Your numeration, there- 
fore, applied to finite things and not to infinity, is 
true with relation to the details, which you see, but 
false with relation to the whole, which you do not 
see. 

" If nature always resembles itself in its organiz- 
ing forces or in its principles of action, which are 
19 



2QO SERAPHITA 

infinite, it never does in its finite effects; thus, you 
will never find in all nature two identical objects; in 
the natural order, therefore, two and two can never 
make four, for, to attain that result, we must com- 
bine units that are exactly alike, and you know that 
it is impossible to find two leaves alike on the same 
tree, or two identical individuals in the same species 
of tree. That axiom of your numeration, false in 
visible nature, is false likewise in the invisible uni- 
verse of your abstractions, where the same variety 
is found in your ideas, which are the objects of the 
visible world extended by their interrelations; in- 
deed, the differences are more striking there than 
elsewhere. In fine, as everything there is depend- 
ent upon the temperament, the force, the morals, 
the habits, of individuals who never resemble one 
another, the slightest objects represent individual 
feelings. Assuredly, if man has been able to create 
units, he has done it by giving equal value to bits of 
gold of equal weight. Very well; you can add the 
poor man's ducat to the rich man's ducat, and say to 
yourself at the public treasury, that they are two 
equal quantities; but, in the eyes of the thinker, one 
of them is surely more considerable from a moral 
standpoint than the other; one represents a month 
of happiness, the other represents the most ephem- 
eral whim. Two and two make four, therefore, 
only by a false and monstrous abstraction. Nor 
do fractions exist in nature, where what you call a 
fragment is a thing complete in itself; but it fre- 
quently happens, and you have proof of it, that the 



SERAPHITA 291 

hundredth part of a substance is stronger than what 
you would call the whole substance. If the fraction 
does not exist in the natural order, still less does it 
exist in the moral order, where ideas and feelings 
may be varied like the species of the vegetable 
order, but are always entire. The theory of frac- 
tions, therefore, is a notable instance of the obliging 
nature of your mind. Thus, number, with its infin- 
itely small divisions and its infinite expansions, is a 
power of which but a small part is known to you, 
and of which the full scope escapes you. You have 
built yourself a cottage in the infinity of numbers, 
you have decorated it with hieroglyphics scien- 
tifically arranged and painted, and you exclaim: 
' Everything is there!' From pure number let us 
pass to the symbolized applications of number. 

"Your geometry demonstrates that the straight 
line is the shortest distance between two points, but 
your astronomy demonstrates that God proceeds by 
curved lines alone. Thus we have two truths proved 
in the same science: one by the testimony of your 
senses sharpened by the telescope, the other by the 
testimony of your mind: but of these one contradicts 
the other. Man, who is prone to err, affirms the 
first, and the Maker of worlds, whom you have 
never detected in error, denies it. Who shall decide, 
then, between rectilinear geometry and curvilinear 
geometry? between the theory of the straight line 
and the theory of the curve? If, in his work, the 
mysterious artist, who knows how to attain his ends 
with marvellous celerity, employs the straight line 



292 SERAPHITA 

only to cut it at a right angle in order to obtain a 
curve, man himself can never rely upon it: the 
bullet, which man seeks to propel in a straight line, 
travels in a curve, and when you wish to reach a 
point in space with absolute certainty, you command 
the missile to follow its fatal parabola. Not one of 
your scholars has ever drawn the simple deduction 
that the curve is the law of the material world, the 
straight line of the spiritual world: that one is the 
theory of finite creations, the other is the theory of 
the infinite. Man, who alone on earth has knowl- 
edge of the infinite, alone can know the straight 
line; he alone has the idea of verticality in a special 
organ. Would not an attachment to the curve in 
certain men be an indication of an impurity of their 
nature, still wedded to the material substances which 
engender us; and would not the love of great minds 
for the straight line seem to denote in them a pre- 
sentiment of heaven? Between those two lines 
there is an abyss, as there is between the finite and 
the infinite, between mind and matter, between man 
and the idea, between motion and the object moved, 
between the creature and the Creator. Ask the 
divine love for its wings and you may cross that 
abyss! Beyond, the revelation of the Word begins. 
Nowhere are the things you call material without 
depth; lines are the boundaries of solids which imply 
a force of action suppressed by you in your theorems, 
which suppression makes those theorems false as re- 
lating to bodies taken in their entirety; hence the 
constant destruction of all human monuments, which 



SERAPHITA 293 

you unwittingly arm with active properties. Nature 
deals only with bodies, your learning is simply a 
combining of appearances. 

"So it is that nature at every step gives the lie 
to all your laws; can you name a single one which 
is not disproved by some fact? The laws of your 
science of statics are belabored by numberless inci- 
dents of physics, for a fluid overthrows the most solid 
mountains, and thus proves to you that the heaviest 
substances may be upraised by imponderable sub- 
stances. Your laws concerning acoustics and optics 
are contradicted by the sounds you hear within your- 
selves during sleep and by the light of an electrical 
sun whose beams often blind you. You have no 
more knowledge of how light becomes intelligence 
in you than of the simple and natural process which 
changes it to ruby or sapphire or opal or emerald 
on the neck of an East Indian bird, while it remains 
gray and brown on the neck of the same bird when 
living under the cloudy skies of Europe, and while it 
remains white here, in the heart of the polar region. 
You cannot determine whether color is a faculty with 
which bodies are endowed, or whether it is an effect 
produced by the affusion of light. You admit the 
saltness of the sea without ascertaining whether the 
sea is salt in its whole depth. You have acknowl- 
edged the existence of several substances which trav- 
erse what you believe to be the void; substances 
which are not palpable in any of the shapes affected 
by matter, but which place themselves in harmony 
with it despite all obstacles. That being so, you 



294 SERAPHITA 

believe in the results attained by chemistry, although 
it has as yet discovered no method of estimating the 
changes caused by the ebb or flow of the substances 
which come and go through your crystals and your 
machines on the intangible threads of heat or light, 
guided, controlled by the affinities of the metal or of 
the vitrified silica. You obtain only dead substances 
from which you have expelled the unknown force 
which opposes all forms of decomposition on this 
earth, and of which the power of attraction and 
cohesion, vibration and polarity, are merely phenom- 
ena. 

" Life is the thought of bodies; they are simply a 
means of fixing it, of confining it to its path; if bodies 
were living beings by themselves, they would be a 
cause and would not die. When a man sets forth 
the results of the general movement shared by all 
created things in proportion to their power of absorp- 
tion, you proclaim him a scholar par excellence, as if 
genius consisted in explaining what is. True genius 
should cast its eyes beyond effects. All your scholars 
would laugh if you should say to them: ' There 
might be such a well-defined sympathy between two 
persons, one at Java, for instance, and the other 
here, that they would feel the same sensation at the 
same instant, be conscious of it, question each other, 
and reply without an error!' And yet there are 
mineral substances which exhibit sympathy for one 
another at as great a distance as in the case I men- 
tion. You believe in the power of the electricity 
that is confined in the magnet, and you deny the 



SERAPHITA 295 

power of that which the soul sets free. According 
to your theory, the moon, whose influence over the 
tides seems to be established to your satisfaction, 
has no influence over the winds or vegetation or 
mankind; it moves the sea and eats into glass, but 
it must respect the sick; it has certain relations with 
one moiety of humanity but has no influence over 
the other moiety. There are your richest certainties. 
Let us go a little further. Do you believe in physics? 
But your physics begins, like the Catholic religion, 
with an act of faith. Does it not recognize an ex- 
ternal force, distinct from matter, to which it com- 
municates motion? You see its effects, but what is 
it? where is it? what is its essence, its life? has it 
any limits? And you deny God! 

" Thus the majority of your scientific axioms, 
true with relation to man, are false with relation to 
the great whole. Science is indivisible, and you 
have divided it. To ascertain the real meaning of 
phenomenal laws, must not one know the correla- 
tions existing between phenomena and the law of 
totality? In everything there is an external appear- 
ance which impresses itself upon your senses; be- 
neath that appearance a mind is stirring; there is 
body and mental faculty. Where do you study 
the relations that bind things together? Nowhere? 
Have you nothing absolute, then? Your most cer- 
tain theses rest upon the analysis of material forms 
whose spirit is constantly neglected by you. There 
is a lofty branch of knowledge which certain men 
discover too late and dare not admit it. Such men 



296 SERAPHITA 

have realized the necessity of considering bodies not 
only with relation to their mathematical properties, 
but also in their hidden affinities, in short, as a 
whole. The greatest man among you divined, to- 
ward the close of his life, that everything was cause 
and effect reciprocally; that the visible worlds bore 
a fixed relation to one another, and were subordinate 
to the invisible worlds. He deplored his previous 
attempt to establish absolute precepts! Counting up 
his worlds, like grape-seed sown in space, he ex- 
plained their cohesion by the laws of planetary and 
molecular attraction; you did homage to that man. 
Ah! I tell you that he died in despair. Assuming the 
centrifugal and centripetal forces, which he invented 
to account for the existence of the universe, to be 
equal, the universe would stop, and yet he admitted 
the existence of motion in an indeterminate sense; 
but, assuming those forces to be unequal, the con- 
fusion of worlds ensued at once. So that his laws 
were not absolute, there was a problem still more 
exalted than the principle upon which his false glory 
rests. Thus, the interrelations of the stars and the 
centripetal force of their internal motion prevented 
him from seeking the branch upon which his bunch 
of grapes hung. Unhappy man! the more he mag- 
nified space, the heavier his burden grew. He has 
told you equilibrium was established between the 
parts; but what became of the whole? He contem- 
plated the vast expanse, infinite in the eyes of man, 
filled by those groups of worlds of which only the 
most minute portion is disclosed by our telescopes, 



SERAPHITA 297 

but whose immensity is made manifest by the rapid 
movement of light. 

" That sublime contemplation enabled him to 
perceive infinite worlds which, planted in that ex- 
panse like flowers in a field, are born like infants, 
grow like youths, die like old men, live by assimi- 
lating those elements of their atmosphere which are 
adapted to nourish them, worlds which have a centre 
and a principle of life, which are protected from each 
other by their orbits, which, like plants, absorb and 
are absorbed, which compose a whole endowed with 
life, and having a destiny of its own. At that sight, 
that man trembled ! He knew that life is produced 
by the union of the thing with its active principle, 
that death or inertia, weight, in short, is produced by 
a rupture between the thing and the motion which 
is peculiar to it; thereupon, he foresaw the rending 
asunder of those worlds if God should withdraw his 
Word from them. He began to search the Apocalypse 
for traces of that Word. You believed him mad, so 
mark this: he was seeking pardon for his genius. 
You came, Wilfrid, to beg me to solve equations, 
to walk upon a rain-cloud, to plunge into the fiord 
and reappear as a swan. If science or miracles 
were the sole aim of humanity, Moses would have 
bequeathed to you the method of calculating fluxions, 
Jesus Christ would have illumined the obscurities of 
your sciences, His apostles would have told you the 
source of those endless trains of gases or metals in 
a state of fusion, attached to nuclei, which whirl 
about in order to solidify, seeking a resting-place in 



298 SERAPHITA 

the ether, and which sometimes force their way vio- 
lently into a planetary system when they come in 
contact with a star, turn it from its course, and shat- 
ter it by the shock, or destroy it by the infiltration 
of their deadly gases. Instead of helping you to live 
in God, Saint Paul would have explained that food 
is the secret bond of all forms of creation and the 
visible bond of all animate beings. 

"To-day, the greatest miracle would be to find 
the square equal to the circle, a problem which you 
deem impossible, but which is undoubtedly solved in 
the onward march of worlds by the intersection of 
some mathematical line whose involutions are visible 
to the eye of spirits who have reached the upper 
spheres. Believe me, miracles are within us, not 
without. Thus did the natural facts come to pass 
which the peoples of old thought supernatural. 
Would not God have been unfair to manifest His 
power to some generations and withhold its mani- 
festations from others? The rod of brass belongs 
to one and all. Neither Moses, nor Jacob, nor Zoro- 
aster, nor Paul, nor Pythagoras, nor Swedenborg, 
nor the most obscure messengers, nor the most 
glorious prophets of God attained a greater height 
than you may attain. But for nations there are 
hours when they have faith. If material knowledge 
is to be the goal of human efforts, tell me, would 
societies, those great homes where men have been 
wont to assemble, be always providentially dis- 
persed? If civilization were the aim of the human 
race, would intelligence perish? would it remain 



SERAPH1TA 299 

purely an individual attribute? The grandeur of 
all nations that have been great was based upon 
exceptions; when there ceased to be exceptions, 
the grandeur vanished. Would not the seers, the 
prophets, the messengers of God, have turned their 
hands to knowledge, instead of resting them on faith? 
would they not have knocked at the door of your 
brains, instead of appealing to your hearts? They 
all came to urge the nations toward God; they all 
proclaimed the blessed path by saying to you the 
simple words that lead to the kingdom in the skies; 
all, aflame with love and faith, all, inspired by that 
Word which hovers over nations, encompasses them, 
revivifies them, and lifts them up, employed it to 
serve no human interest. Your great geniuses, 
poets, kings, scholars, have been swallowed up with 
their cities, and the desert has wrapped them once 
more in its cloaks of sand; while the names of those 
good shepherds are still blessed and survive every 
disaster. We cannot agree upon any point. We 
are separated by yawning chasms; you are on the 
side of darkness, and 1 live in the true light. Are 
these the words that you wished to hear? I say 
them joyfully, for they may work a change in you. 
Understand that there are sciences of mind as well 
as sciences of matter. Where you see bodies, I see 
forces which tend toward one another by virtue of 
an impulse of generation. To my mind, the char- 
acter of a body is the index to its elements and the 
symbol of its properties. Those elements give birth 
to affinities which escape your notice, but which 



300 SERAPHITA 

are connected with certain centres. The different 
species among which life is distributed are never- 
failing sources which correspond among themselves. 
To each its special product. Man is effect and cause; 
he is nourished, but he also nourishes. 

" By calling God the Creator, you belittle Him; 
He did not create, as you believe, either the plants 
or the animals or the stars; could He proceed by 
diverse methods? did He not act on the sole princi- 
ple of unity of composition? Thus He created ele- 
ments which should develop according to His general 
law, at the pleasure of the surroundings in which 
they happened to be placed. Thus a single sub- 
stance, and motion; a single plant, a single animal, 
but constant relations. In fine, all the affinities are 
connected by points of similarity, and the life of the 
worlds is drawn toward fixed centres by a famished 
aspiration, just as you are all impelled by hunger to 
seek food. To give you an example of affinities con- 
nected by similarities, a secondary law upon which 
all creations of your thought repose, music, a celes- 
tial art, is an application of that principle; is it not a 
blending of sounds harmonized by number? Is not 
sound a modification of the air, by compression, ex- 
pansion, reverberation? You know the composition 
of the air: nitrogen, oxygen, and carbon. As you 
can obtain no sound in a vacuum, it is clear that 
music and the human voice are the result of the 
union of organized chemical substances with the 
same substances prepared within you by your mind, 
and harmonized by means of light, the great source 



SERAPHITA 301 

of nutriment to your globe; have you ever contem- 
plated the masses of nitre deposited by the snow, 
have you ever looked upon the lightning-flash and 
the plants inhaling the metals which they assimilate, 
without forming the conclusion that the sun melts 
and distributes the subtle essence that nourishes 
everything on this earth? As Swedenborg said: 
The earth is a man! Your present-day learning, 
which makes you great in your own eyes, is paltry 
stuff compared with the floods of light with which 
the seers are surrounded. Cease, cease to question 
me, our languages are not the same. I have used 
yours for a moment in order to cast a gleam of faith 
into your souls, to give you a skirt of my cloak, and 
lead you to the beautiful regions of prayer. Is it 
for God to stoop to your level ? is it not your duty 
to rise to Him? If human reason has so soon ex- 
hausted its strength, placing God at the top of its 
ladder so that it might see Him, but failing to 
reach Him, is it not evident that we must seek 
some other path to obtain a knowledge of Him? 
That path is in ourselves. The seer and the 
believer find within them eyes more piercing 
than the eyes they apply to earthly things, and 
they descry the dawn. Listen to this truth : 
your most exact sciences, your boldest medita- 
tions, your brightest gleams of intelligence, are 
clouds. Above is the sanctuary whence the true 
light gushes forth." 

She sat down and ceased to speak, but her placid 
features gave not the slightest indication of the 



302 SERAPHITA 

excitement orators feel after their least vehement 
extempore harangues. 

"Who told her all that?" Wilfrid whispered in 
Monsieur Becker's ear. 

" I do not know," he replied. 

" He was pleasanter on the Falberg," said Minna 
to herself. 

Seraphita passed her hand over her eyes, and said 
with a smile: 

" You are very thoughtful this evening, gentle- 
men. You treat Minna and myself like men to 
whom you can talk politics and business, whereas 
we are two girls to whom you ought to tell pretty 
stories while we drink our tea, as the custom is in 
Norway. Come, Monsieur Becker, tell me some of 
the saga that I don't know. Tell me the saga of 
Frithiof, that story which you believe so implicitly, 
and which you promised to tell me. Tell us about 
the peasant's son who owned a ship that had a 
soul and could talk. 1 dream of the frigate Ellidal 
Wasn't that the name of the fairy with sails upon 
which young girls were supposed to sail?" 

"As we have come back to Jarvis once more," 
said Wilfrid, whose eyes were fixed upon Seraphita 
as the eyes of a robber crouching in the shadow 
glare at the spot where the treasure lies, "tell me 
why you do not marry?" 

" You are all born widows or widowers," she re- 
plied ; " but my marriage was arranged when I was 
born, and I am betrothed " 

" To whom?" they all asked at once. 



SERAPHITA 303 

" Let me keep my secret," said she. " I promise, 
if our father is willing, to invite you to my myste- 
rious nuptials." 

" Will they be soon?" 

" I am waiting." 

A long silence followed her last words. 

" The springtime has come," said Seraphita; "the 
uproar of the rushing waters and the breaking ice 
is beginning ; will you not come and salute the first 
springtime of a new century?" 

She rose, followed by Wilfrid, and they walked 
together to a window which David had opened. 
After the long silence of winter, the mighty waters 
were stirring beneath the ice and roaring in the fiord 
like loud music; for there are sounds which distance 
purifies, and which reach the ear like waves of light 
and of refreshing coolness. 

" Cease, Wilfrid, cease to give utterance to evil 
thoughts whose triumph would be a heavy burden 
for you to bear. Who could not read your desires 
in the gleam of your eyes? Be noble, bend your 
steps toward the good! is it not going far beyond 
the love of men to sacrifice one's self entirely to the 
happiness of the person whom one loves? Obey me 
and I will lead you into a path where you will obtain 
all the grandeurs of which you dream, and where love 
will be truly infinite." 

She left Wilfrid lost in thought. 

" Is this sweet creature really the prophetess 
whose eyes a moment since shot fire, who talked 
in thunder tones about the different worlds, whose 



304 SERAPHITA 

hand brandished the axe of doubt against our 
sciences? Have we just waked up?" he said to 
himself. 

"Minna," said Seraphitus, returning to the min- 
ister's daughter, " the eagles fly where the dead 
bodies are, the doves to the living springs, to the 
green and peaceful shade. The eagle soars aloft, 
the dove descends. Cease to risk your welfare in 
a region where you will find neither springs nor 
shade. If, but recently, you were unable to look 
into the abyss without being overcome, keep your 
strength for the man who will love you. My poor 
girl, I have my own betrothed, as you know." 

Minna rose and went with Seraphitus to the win- 
dow where Wilfrid was. All three listened to the 
Sieg rushing down under the pressure of the higher 
streams which were already uprooting trees caught 
in the ice. The fiord had recovered its voice. The 
illusions were dissipated. They all gazed in admi- 
ration at the spectacle of nature throwing off her 
fetters, and, as it were, replying with a sublime out- 
burst of melody to the spirit whose voice had just 
awakened her. 

When the mysterious creature's three guests left 
her, they were filled with that vague sensation which 
is neither somnolence nor torpor nor amazement, 
but which resembles all of these; which is neither 
the twilight nor the dawn, but which makes one 
thirsty for light. All were thinking deeply. 

" I begin to believe that she is a spirit disguised in 
human form," said Monsieur Becker. 



SERAPHITA 305 

Wilfrid, once more in his own apartment, in calm 
and determined mood, did not know how to contend 
with forces of such majesty and diversity. 

Minna said to herself : 

" Why will he not let me love him?" 



THE FAREWELLS 

There is in man a phenomenon perplexing beyond 
measure to the meditative minds which seek to dis- 
cover a meaning in the onward march of societies 
and to establish laws of progression for the move- 
ment of the human intellect. However momentous 
a fact may be, and if supernatural facts could ex- 
ist however solemn and impressive a miracle per- 
formed in public might be, the lightning-flash of that 
fact, the thunder of that miracle, would be swallowed 
up in the moral ocean, whose surface, hardly rough- 
ened by a swiftly passing commotion, would at once 
resume the level of its usual fluctuations. 

Does the voice pass through the animal's jaws to 
make itself heard more distinctly? Does the hand 
write upon the walls of the banqueting-hall where 
the court disports itself? Does the eye illumine the 
king's sleep? Does the prophet come to explain 
dreams? Does death, when summoned, rear its 
head in the luminous regions where the faculties live 
again? Does the spirit stamp out matter at the foot 
of the mystic ladder of the seven spiritual worlds 
which rest one upon another in space and make 
(307) 



308 SERAPHITA 

themselves manifest by the waves of light which fall 
in cascades upon the steps of the celestial court? 
However deep the interior revelation, however visi- 
ble the exterior revelation, on the morrow Balaam 
doubts his ass and himself; Balthazar and Pharaoh 
require the Word to be explained by two prophets, 
Moses and Daniel. The spirit comes, bears man 
away above the earth, divides seas for him, and 
lets him see their depths, shows him the places 
that have disappeared, reanimates for him the dried 
bones which fill the great valley with their powder: 
the Apostle writes the Apocalypse! Twenty cen- 
turies later human knowledge confirms the Apostle 
and translates his images into axioms. What mat- 
ters it! the mass continues to live as it lived yester- 
day, as it lived in the first Olympiad, as it lived on 
the day after the Creation or the day before the 
great catastrophe. Doubt covers everything with 
its waves. The same waves beat with the same 
movement upon the human granite that acts as the 
boundary of the ocean of intelligence. After asking 
himself if he saw what he saw, if he heard aright 
the words that were spoken, if the fact were a fact, 
if the idea were an idea, man resumes his former 
course, turns his mind to his business, obeys some 
slave or other who follows death, yields to forgetful- 
ness, which covers with its black cloak a former 
race of which the new race has no remembrance. 
Man does not cease to move, to go forward, to grow 
like a vegetable, until the day when the axe strikes 
him down. If that power of the waves, if that 



SERAPHITA 309 

constant pressure of the bitter waters prevents all 
progress, doubtless it forestalls death also. Among 
men of superior mould, only those minds which are 
prepared for faith descry Jacob's mystic ladder. 

After listening to the words in which Seraphita, 
being questioned with such solemnity, had set forth 
the vast compass of the divine power, as an organ 
fills a church with its moaning and discloses the 
musical universe, bathing the most inaccessible 
arches in its solemn sounds, playing, like the light, 
among the most graceful decorations of the capitals, 
Wilfrid betook himself to his own apartment, dis- 
mayed by having seen the world in ruins, and above 
those ruins waves of light of strange brilliancy 
pouring from the hands of that girl. The next day, 
his mind was still filled with the subject, but his 
terror was allayed ; he did not feel that he was him- 
self destroyed or changed: his passions, his ideas, 
awoke refreshed and vigorous. He went to break- 
fast with Monsieur Becker, and found him seriously 
absorbed in the Treatise upon Incantations, which he 
had been looking over all the morning in order that 
he might be able to reassure his guest. With the 
childlike good faith of the student, the minister had 
turned down the pages on which Jean Wier cited 
authentic instances which demonstrated the possi- 
bility of the events of the preceding night ; for, in 
the eyes of learned doctors, an idea is an event, just 
as the most momentous events hardly attain the 
dignity of an idea. At the fifth cup of tea that 
the two philosophers drank together, the mysterious 



310 SERAPHITA 

evening became quite natural. The celestial truths 
were arguments of greater or less strength, and 
susceptible of examination. Seraphita seemed to 
them to be a young woman of considerable orator- 
ical power; due credit must be given to her fasci- 
nating voice, to her seductive beauty, to her graceful 
gestures, to all those oratorical arts by the use of 
which an actor expresses in a single sentence a 
whole world of sentiments and thoughts, while in 
reality the sentence is often most commonplace. 

"Bah!" said the worthy minister, with a philo- 
sophical grimace, as he spread a layer of butter on 
his bread, " the solution of such lovely enigmas is 
six feet underground." 

"Nevertheless," said Wilfrid, sugaring his tea, 
" I cannot understand how a girl of sixteen can 
know so many things, for her speech bristles with 
facts tightly compressed as in a vise." 

" Why," said the minister, " just read the story of 
this young Italian girl, who knew forty-two lan- 
guages, ancient and modern, at the age of twelve; 
and the story of this monk who could divine people's 
thoughts by the sense of smell ! In Jean Wier and 
a dozen other treatises which I will give you to read, 
there are a thousand proofs for one." 

" Even so, dear pastor; but to my mind Seraphita 
would be a divine creature to have for one's own." 

"She is all intellect," replied Monsieur Becker, 
doubtfully. 

Several days passed, during which the snow in 
the valleys melted by slow degrees; the green leaves 



SERAPHITA 311 

in the forest peeped out like new grass, the Nor- 
wegian landscape prepared its finery for its nuptials 
of a day. During that brief period when the mild- 
ness of the air made life possible out-of-doors, Sera- 
phita remained in solitude. Wilfrid's passion was 
intensified by the irritation caused by the proximity 
of a beloved woman who does not appear. When 
that indescribable creature received Minna, Minna 
detected the ravages of an internal fire: her voice 
had become hollow, her complexion was beginning 
to fade; and, whereas poets would hitherto have 
compared its dazzling whiteness to the brilliancy of 
the diamond, it had now the splendor of the topaz. 

" Have you seen her?" said Wilfrid, who was 
prowling around the Swedish chateau awaiting 
Minna's return. 

" We are going to lose him," replied the girl, and 
her eyes filled with tears. 

"Mademoiselle," cried the stranger, restraining 
the volume of voice to which anger impels one, "do 
not make sport of me! You can love Seraphita only 
as one girl loves another, not with the love with 
which she inspires me. You do not know what 
danger you would incur if my jealousy were justly 
aroused. Why can I not go to her? Is it you who 
invent obstacles?" 

" I do not know by what right you probe my heart 
thus," replied Minna, calm externally, but in reality 
terribly frightened. "Yes, I love him," she con- 
tinued, recovering the courage of her convictions in 
order to confess the religion of her heart. "But 



312 SERAPHITA 

my jealousy, the natural attendant of love, fears no 
one here. Alas! I am jealous of a hidden senti- 
ment which engrosses his thoughts. Between him 
and me there is a space which I know not how to 
cross. I would that I knew whether the stars or I 
love him the more dearly, which of us would endure 
self-sacrifice more speedily for his happiness? Why 
should I not be at liberty to declare my affection? 
In presence of death, we can avow our preferences, 
and, monsieur, Seraphitus is dying!" 

" You are mistaken, Minna; the siren whom I have 
so often bathed with my desires, who submitted to 
my admiration as she reclined coquettishly upon 
her divan, graceful, weak, and melancholy, is not a 
young man." 

" Monsieur," replied Minna, wistfully, " he whose 
powerful hand guided me over the Falberg to the 
soeler yonder, sheltered by the Ice-Cap," she said, 
pointing to the highest point of the mountain, " is 
surely not a weak girl. Ah! if you had heard him 
prophesying! His poetry was the music of thought. 
A young girl could not have commanded the deep 
tones of voice that moved my very soul." 

" But what certainty have you " said Wilfrid. 

" None, save that of the heart," replied Minna in 
confusion, hastily interrupting him. 

" Well, I," cried Wilfrid, darting at Minna the ter- 
rifying glance of the desire and passion that kill 
" I, who know how powerful is my self-control, will 
prove your error to you." 

At the moment when words were thronging to 



SERAPHITA 313 

Wilfrid's tongue as rapidly as ideas were massing 
in his brain, he saw Seraphita coming from the 
Swedish chateau, followed by David. Her appear- 
ance allayed his excitement. 

" Look," he said, " only a woman can show such 
grace, such pliancy of movement." 

"He is ill, he is walking out for the last time," 
said Minna. 

David withdrew at a sign from his mistress, as 
Wilfrid and Minna went to meet her. 

"Let us go to the falls of the Sieg," she said to 
them, voicing an invalid's longing of the sort that 
one hastens to gratify. 

A light white mist shrouded the valleys and the 
mountains; the peaks, gleaming like stars, pierced it 
and gave it the aspect of a moving milky-way. The 
sun appeared through that earthly smoke like a globe 
of red-hot iron. Despite these last gambols of winter, 
occasional puffs of warm air, laden with the perfume 
of the birch, already arrayed in its white buds, and 
with the odors exhaled by the larches whose silken 
tufts appeared once more breezes heated by the in- 
cense and sighing of the earth announced the beau- 
tiful springtime of the North, a brief outburst of joy 
on the part of the most melancholy of natures. The 
wind was beginning to raise the veil of clouds that 
partly concealed the gulf. The birds were singing. 
The bark on the trees, where the sun had not yet 
dried the paths made by the frost, which trickled 
down in murmuring streams, enlivened the land- 
scape with its fantastic appearance. They walked 



314 SERAPHITA 

in silence along the shore. Wilfrid and Minna alone 
gazed at that spectacle, magic in its beauty to them 
who had grown weary of the monotonous picture of 
that country-side in winter. Their companion was 
pensive, as if he were trying to distinguish some one 
voice in that concert of nature. They reached the 
verge of the cliffs between which the Sieg empties 
into the fiord, at the end of the long avenue lined 
with venerable firs which the torrent had cut for 
itself in an undulating line through the forest, a path 
with an arched ceiling strongly ribbed, as in cathe- 
drals. From that point, the fiord was visible in its 
entire length, and the open sea sparkled on the hori- 
zon like a steel blade. 

At that moment, the mist vanished, and disclosed 
the blue sky. On all sides, in the valleys, around the 
trees, glistening particles still flew hither and thither, 
like diamond-dust swept up by a fresh breeze, superb 
catkins of drops hanging in pyramids at the ends of 
twigs. The mountain torrent roared above them. 
From its surface arose a vapor tinged with all the 
diverse shades of light by the sun, whose rays, dis- 
solved into their elements, formed shafts of light 
in the seven colors, sending forth the flames of in- 
numerable prisms whose reflections crossed and re- 
crossed in every direction. That wild quay was 
carpeted by several varieties of lichen, a lovely 
material made lustrous by the dampness, and figured 
like a magnificent silk hanging. Heather already in 
flower crowned the cliffs with its artfully blended 
garlands. All the slender branches, attracted by the 



SERAPHITA 315 

cool vapor from the stream, drooped their head- 
dresses of foliage; the larches waved their lacelike 
leaves, caressing the pines, which stood as motion- 
less as thought-worn old men. That luxuriant array 
had a fitting contrast in the solemnity of the ven- 
erable colonnades presented by the forests on the 
mountains and in the broad expanse of the fiord, 
spread out at the feet of the three spectators, in 
which the torrent drowned its frenzy. And last of 
all, the sea was the frame of that page written by 
the greatest of poets, Chance, to whom we owe the 
lack of order in the creation, which seems to have 
been left to its own devices. Jar vis was a mere 
speck in that landscape, in that immensity, sublime 
like everything which, having but an ephemeral life, 
presents a swiftly-passing image of perfection; for in 
accordance with a law, fatal in our eyes only, crea- 
tions which seem finished, the favorites of our hearts 
and our glances, have only a springtime here. On 
the summit of that cliff, those three might justly 
believe themselves alone in the world. 

" What a gorgeous sight!" cried Wilfrid. 

"Nature has her hymns," said Seraphita. "Is 
not this music delicious? Confess, Wilfrid, that none 
of the women you have known has ever created 
such a beautiful retreat as this. Here I am conscious 
of a feeling rarely inspired by the sight of cities, a 
feeling that would lead me to lie for an indefinite 
time amid this grass that grows so rapidly. Lying 
there, with eyes fixed on the sky, with open heart, 
lost in the bosom of the boundless expanse, I would 



316 SERAPHITA 

listen to the sigh of the flower which is no sooner 
free from its primitive covering than it would try to 
run, and to the cries of the eider-duck, impatient for 
naught but wings, remembering the longings of man, 
who resembles them all, and who, like them, desires! 
But this is woman's poetry, Wilfrid ! You descry a 
voluptuous suggestion in that misty liquid expanse, 
in those embroidered veils in which nature disports 
herself like a coquettish bride, and in this atmos- 
phere wherein she perfumes her green tresses for 
her nuptials. You would like to distinguish the 
shape of a naiad in yonder vapory gauze, and, in 
your view, I ought to listen to the masculine voice 
of the torrent." 

" Is not love there, like a bee among the petals of 
a flower?" replied Wilfrid, who, detecting traces 
of an earthly feeling in her for the first time, deemed 
the moment favorable to give expression to his effer- 
vescent passion. 

"Again?" laughed Seraph ita, whom Minna had 
left alone. 

She was climbing a cliff on which she had spied 
blue saxifrage. 

"Again!" echoed Wilfrid. "Listen to me,'* he 
said, with an uncompromising glance which en- 
countered a sort of adamantine armor, "you know 
not what I am, what my power is, and what my 
will. Do not reject my last prayer! Be mine for 
the welfare of the world, which is so dear to your 
heart! Be mine, that I may have a pure conscience, 
that a divine voice may ring in my ear inspiring me 



SERAPH1TA 317 

aright in the vast enterprise which I have resolved 
to undertake, impelled by my hatred of the nations 
of the earth, but which I would accomplish for their 
good if you bear me company. What more noble 
mission could you give to love? of what nobler r61e 
can a woman dream? I came to this country medi- 
tating a momentous project." 

"And you will sacrifice its grandeurs," she said, 
"to an innocent maiden, whom you will love, and 
who will lead you into the paths of peace." 

"What do I care? I want none but you!" he re- 
plied, resuming his discourse. " This is my secret. 
I have travelled through the whole North, that great 
workshop where the new races are forged which 
spread over the earth like human streams whose 
function it is to revivify superannuated civilization. 
I wished to commence my work at some point in 
these latitudes, to win for myself there the empire 
which force and intelligence enable one to obtain over 
a wandering tribe, to train it to fight, to make war, 
to spread it abroad like a conflagration, to swallow 
up Europe, crying liberty here, pillage there, glory 
to one, pleasure to another; but meanwhile I myself, 
like the figure of Destiny, implacable and cruel, 
would stalk onward like the tempest which assimi- 
lates all the elements in the atmosphere of which 
the lightning is composed, and fatten myself upon 
mankind like an insatiable scourge. Thus I should 
have conquered Europe at a time when it is awaiting 
the new Messiah who is to lay waste the world in 
order to reconstruct its social systems. Europe will 



3l8 SERAPHITA 

no longer believe in anybody save the man who 
tramples her under his feet. Some day poets and 
historians would have justified my life, would have 
magnified my fame, would have imputed exalted 
ideas to me, me to whom that immense jest, 
written in blood, is vengeance pure and simple. 
But, dear Seraphita, what I have seen has disgusted 
me with the North, strength here is too blind, and 
I thirst for the Indies! A duel with a conceited, 
cowardly, mercenary government is far more attrac- 
tive to me. And then, too, it is easier to excite the 
imagination of nations sitting at the foot of the Cau- 
casus than to convince the mind of the ice-bound 
countries where we are. I am tempted, therefore, 
to cross the Russian steppes, to reach the borders 
of Asia, to sweep over it as far as the Ganges with 
my triumphant human inundation, and there I will 
overthrow the English power. Seven men have 
already carried out this scheme at different times. 
I will renew the triumphs of art as the Saracens did 
when Mahomet turned them loose on Europe. I will 
be no paltry king like those who to-day govern the 
former provinces of the Roman Empire, disputing 
with their subjects over tariffs. No, nothing shall 
arrest the lightning of my glances or the tempest of 
my speech! My feet shall cover a third of the globe, 
like those of Genghis-Khan; my hand shall grasp Asia 
as Aurungzebe's once grasped it. Be my companion, 
take your seat, O fair and lovely creature, on a 
throne. I have never felt a doubt of my success 
be thou in my heart and I shall be sure of it!" 



SERAPHITA 319 

" I have already reigned," said Seraphita. 

Those words were like the blow of an axe dealt 
by a skilful woodsman at the foot of a sapling which 
instantly falls. Only men can understand the frenzy 
a woman arouses in a man's heart, when, as he 
strives to demonstrate to her his strength or his 
power, his talents or his superior genius, the capri- 
cious creature puts her head on one side and says: 
" That is nothing!" when she smiles with a blast 
air and says: " I know all that!" when, to her mind, 
strength is pettiness. 

" What!" cried Wilfrid in desperation, " the glories 
of art, the treasures of the world, the splendors of a 
court " 

She stopped him by a single movement of her lips, 
and said: 

" Beings more powerful than you are have offered 
me more." 

" Then you can have no heart, if you are not 
attracted by the prospect of being the solace of a 
great man who will sacrifice everything to live with 
you in a little house on the shore of a lake." 

" But," said she, "I am loved with a love that 
knows no bounds." 

"By whom?" cried Wilfrid, rushing frantically 
toward Seraphita, to hurl her into the foamy cas- 
cade of the Sieg. 

She looked at him, his arm fell by his side; she 
pointed to Minna, who was running toward them, all 
pink and white, and pretty as the flowers she held 
in her hand. 



320 SERAPHITA 

" Child!" said Seraphitus, going to meet her. 

Wilfrid remained at the summit of the cliff, motion- 
less as a statue, lost in his thoughts, longing to be 
whirled away by the rushing waters of the Sieg like 
one of the uprooted trees that passed before his eyes 
and disappeared in the bosom of the gulf. 

"I picked them for you," said Minna, presenting 
her nosegay to the adored one. "One of them, this 
one," she continued, selecting a flower, " is like the 
one we found on the Falberg." 

Seraphitus gazed at the flower and at Minna in 
turn. 

" Why do you say that to me? do you doubt me?" 

" No," said the girl, " my trust in you is infinite. 
While you are in my eyes lovelier than this lovely 
scene, you also seem to me more learned than the 
whole human race. When I saw you, I thought that 
I had been praying to God. I would like " 

"What?" said Seraphitus, glancing at the girl 
with an expression which disclosed to her the vast 
gulf that lay between them. 

" I would like to suffer in your stead." 

" This is the most dangerous of mortal creatures," 
said Seraphitus to himself. " O my God, can it be a 
criminal thought to long to present her to thee? 
Have you forgotten already what I told you up 
yonder?" he said aloud, addressing the maiden and 
pointing to the peak of the Ice-Cap. 

" Now he has become terrible again," said Minna 
to herself, shuddering with dread. 

The voice of the Sieg accompanied the thoughts of 



SERAPHITA 321 

the three, who remained for some moments on a 
jutting platform of rock, together in the flesh, but 
separated by fathomless abysses in the spiritual 
world. 

"Oh! Seraphitus, teach me," said Minna in a 
voice as silvery as a pearl, and as timid as the move- 
ment of sensitive plants. " Teach me what I must 
do in order not to love you. Who would not admire 
you? love is admiration which never grows weary." 

" Poor child!" said Seraphitus, turning pale, "one 
can love only a single being in that way." 

"Who?" demanded Minna. 

"You shall know," he replied in the feeble voice 
of a man about to lie down and die. 

" Help! he is dying!" cried Minna. 

Wilfrid ran to them, and, seeing that strange being 
lying gracefully on a fragment of gneiss, whereon 
time had cast its cloak of velvet, its glossy lichens, 
its yellow mosses which shone like satin in the sun, 
he said: 

" She is very lovely!" 

" This is the last glance I shall be able to bestow 
upon nature in travail," she said, summoning all her 
strength to rise. 

She walked to the edge of the cliff from which she 
could embrace the whole of that grand and sublime 
landscape, but lately buried beneath a tunic of snow, 
now bedecked with flowers, verdant and full of life. 

"Farewell," she said, "dear spot, burning with 
love, where everything rushes ardently from centre 
to extremities, and whose extremities assemble like 

21 



322 SERAPHITA 

the hairs upon a woman's head, to form the strange 
tress by which thou dost attach thyself, in the in- 
visible ether, to the divine thought! 

" Do you see the man who, bending over a furrow 
watered with his sweat, rises a moment to question 
the sky; the woman calling her children to refresh 
them with her milk; the sailor handling the ropes in 
the wildest fury of the storm; the woman sitting 
in the hollow of a rock awaiting the father? do you 
see all those who stretch out their hands after a life 
consumed in thankless toil? To all, peace and cour- 
age! to all, farewell ! 

"Do you hear the cry of the soldier dying un- 
known, the outcry of the man betrayed, weeping in 
the desert? To all, peace and courage! to all, fare- 
well! Farewell, ye who die for the kings of earth! 
But farewell, too, ye peoples without a fatherland, ye 
lands without peoples, who long each for the other! 
Above all, farewell to thee, O sublime exile, who 
knowest not where to rest thy head ! Farewell, dear 
innocents, drawn by wild horses for having loved 
too well ! Farewell, ye mothers sitting beside your 
dying sons! Farewell, ye sainted wounded women! 
Farewell, ye poor! Farewell, ye small and weak 
and sickly, whose sorrows I have so often made 
mine own! Farewell, all ye who wander in the 
sphere of instinct, suffering for others! 

" Farewell, ye navigators who seek the east 
through the dense shadows of your abstractions, 
vast as elemental principles! Farewell, ye mar- 
tyrs of thought, whom thought leads to the true 



SERAPHITA 323 

light ! Farewell, ye studious spheres where I hear 
the lament of the insulted genius, the sigh of the 
scholar whose knowledge comes too late! 

"This is the angelic concert, the perfume-laden 
breeze, the incense of the heart exhaled by those 
who go about praying, comforting, instilling the 
divine light and the celestial balm into depressed 
souls. Courage, choir of love! Ye, to whom the 
nations cry: 'Comfort us! defend us!' courage and 
farewell ! 

" Farewell, granite, thou shalt become a flower; 
farewell, flower, thou shalt become a dove; farewell, 
dove, thou shalt be woman; farewell, woman, thou 
shalt be suffering; farewell, man, thou shalt be 
faith; farewell, ye who shall be all love and prayer!" 

Prostrated by fatigue, the mysterious being leaned 
for the first time upon Wilfrid and Minna to return 
home. Thereupon, Wilfrid and Minna felt that they 
were attacked by a strange contagion. They had 
taken but a few steps when David appeared, weep- 
ing: 

"She is dying, why did you bring her so far?" 
he cried in the distance. 

The old man, renewing his youthful strength, 
took Seraphita in his arms and flew to the gate of 
the Swedish chateau, like an eagle carrying a snow- 
white lamb to his eyrie. 



VI 



THE PATH TO HEAVEN 

On the day following that on which Seraphita 
foretold her own death and bade farewell to earth 
as a prisoner looks about his dungeon before leaving 
it forever, she suffered pains that compelled her to 
remain in the state of absolute rest imposed upon 
those who are afflicted with the most grievous ills. 
Wilfrid and Minna went to see her, and found her 
reclining on her fur-covered divan. Her soul, still 
veiled by the flesh, shone through that veil, making it 
whiter and whiter day by day. The onward march 
of the spirit, undermining the last barrier that sepa- 
rated it from the infinite, was called a disease, the 
hour of true life was named death. David wept to 
see his mistress suffer, refusing to listen to her words 
of consolation; the old man was as unreasonable as 
a child. Monsieur Becker urged Seraphita to take 
medicine; but- his efforts were fruitless. 

One morning, she asked for the two beings whom 
she had loved, sending word to them that that day was 
the last of her bad days. Wilfrid and Minna came 
in deadly alarm; they knew that they were about to 
lose her. Seraphita smiled on them after the manner 
(325) 



326 SERAPHITA 

of those who are going to a better world, she bent 
her head like a flower too heavily laden with dew, 
showing its petals for the last time and giving to 
the air its last fragrance; she gazed at them with 
a feeling of melancholy inspired by them, she no 
longer thought of herself, and they were conscious 
of it but were unable to express their sorrow, with 
which gratitude was blended. Wilfrid stood silent, 
motionless, absorbed in one of those reveries in- 
duced by things whose vast scope enables us to 
comprehend the existence of supreme immensity 
even on earth. Emboldened by the weakness of 
that powerful creature, or perhaps by the fear of 
losing her forever, Minna stooped over her and 
said : 

" Seraphitus, let me go with you?" 

"Can I for bid you?" 

" Why do you not love me enough to remain?" 

" I could not love anybody here on earth." 

" Whom do you love?" 

"Heaven." 

" Are you worthy of heaven when you thus de- 
spise God's creatures?" 

"Minna, can we love two persons at once? 
Would your beloved be your beloved if he did not 
fill your heart? Must he not be the first, the last, 
the only one? Does not she who is all love leave the 
world for her well-beloved? Her entire family be- 
comes a memory, she has but one relative, him! 
Her heart is no longer hers, but his! If she keeps 
in her heart anything that is not his, she does not 



SERAPHITA 327 

love; no, she does not love! Is it to love at all, to love 
feebly? The words of her well-beloved fill her soul 
with joy and flow through her veins in a purple flood 
of a richer hue than blood; his glance is a light 
which penetrates her being, she becomes one with 
him; where he is, there everything is beautiful. He 
warms the heart, he illumines everything; by his 
side is it ever cold or dark? he is never absent, he 
is always in us, we think in him, of him, for him. 
That is how 1 love, Minna." 

"Love whom?" said Minna, attacked by a con- 
suming jealousy. 

" God," replied Seraphitus, whose voice shone 
bright in their souls like beacon-fires glowing from 
mountain to mountain. "God, who never betrays 
us! God, who does not abandon us and constantly 
fulfils our desires, who alone can always slake the 
thirst of His creature with infinite, unalloyed joy! 
God, who is never weary and does naught but 
smile! God, who, always new, casts His treasures 
into the soul, who purifies and knows not bitterness, 
who is all harmony and all flame! God, who places 
Himself within our hearts to blossom there, grants 
all our desires, does not parley with us when we 
are His, but gives Himself absolutely, gives us new 
life, amplifies us, multiplies us in Himself! In fine, 
GOD! Minna, I love you because you may be His! 
I love you, because, if you come to Him, you will 
be mine." 

" Then lead me," she replied, kneeling. " Take 
my hand, I will never leave you." 



328 SERAPHITA 

" Lead us, Seraphita!" cried Wilfrid, kneeling im- 
petuously at Minna's side. " Yes, you have made 
me thirsty for the light and thirsty for the Word ; 
I am parched with the love you have planted in 
my heart, I will preserve your soul in mine; let 
me know your will, I will do what you bid me do. 
If I cannot obtain you, I wish to retain all the senti- 
ments which you may communicate to me! If I can 
bind myself to you only by my unaided strength, I 
will cling to you as the fire clings to what it con- 
sumes. Speak!" 

"Angel !" cried the incomprehensible creature, en- 
veloping them both in a glance which was like a 
cloak of azure, " Angel, heaven shall be thy heri- 
tage!" 

A long silence followed that exclamation, which 
echoed in Wilfrid's soul and Minna's like the first 
strain of some celestial melody. 

" If you would accustom your feet to walk in the 
path that leads to heaven, understand that its early 
stages are hard," said that suffering soul. "God 
wishes to be sought for Himself. In that sense He 
is jealous, He wishes you to be absolutely His; but, 
when you have given yourself to Him, He never 
abandons you. I purpose to leave with you the 
keys of the kingdom where His light shines, where 
you will be always in the bosom of the Father, in 
the heart of the Bridegroom. No sentinel guards 
the approaches, you can enter at any point; His 
palace, His treasures, His sceptre, nothing is 
guarded; He has said to all: 'Take them!' But 



SERAPHITA 329 

one must feel the desire to go thither. It is neces- 
sary to leave one's home as if for a journey, to re- 
nounce one's plans, to bid farewell to one's friends, 
one's father, mother, sister, and even to the smallest 
brother who cries aloud, to bid them all farewell for- 
ever, for you will no more return than the martyrs 
who set out for the stake returned to their firesides; 
in a word, you must cut loose from the sentiments 
and objects to which men cling; otherwise you would 
not be wholly devoted to your enterprise. Do for 
God what you would do for your own ambitious 
designs, what you do when you devote yourself to 
an art, what you did when you loved a mortal more 
dearly than Him, or when you were in pursuit of 
some secret of human science. Is not God science 
itself, love itself, the source of all poesy? May not 
His treasure arouse cupidity? His treasure is inex- 
haustible, His poesy is infinite, His love is immu- 
table, His knowledge is infallible and free from 
mystery! Cling to nothing, therefore, He will give 
you everything. Yes, you will find in His heart 
treasures incomparably greater than the earthly treas- 
ures you may have lost. This that I tell you is cer- 
tain : you will have His power, you will use it as 
you use what belongs to your lover or your mis- 
tress. Alas! the majority of men doubt, lack faith, 
will, perseverance. Although some may set out, 
they at once begin to look behind them and retrace 
their steps. Few mortals know how to choose be- 
tween those two extremes: to remain or to go, the 
mire or heaven. Everyone hesitates. Weakness 



330 SERAPHITA 

is the beginning of going astray, passion leads man 
into the crooked path; vice, which is a habit, bemires 
him there, and he makes no progress toward the 
better state. 

"All beings live a first life in the sphere of instinct, 
where they labor to discover the emptiness of earthly 
treasures after having taken the utmost pains to 
amass them. How many times does one live in this 
first world before leaving it prepared to submit to 
other tests in the sphere of abstractions where the 
thought expends its energy in false sciences, where 
the spirit grows weary at last of human speech; 
for when matter is exhausted, then comes spirit. 
Through how many forms has the being promised to 
heaven passed before arriving at an understanding 
of the price of the silence and solitude whose star- 
studded plains are the courtyard of the spiritual 
worlds! His eyes, after a sad experience of the 
void and nothingness, turn to the straight path. 
Then there are other lives to be lived in order to 
reach the path where the light shines. Death is the 
relay-house of that journey. Then one's experi- 
ences tend in the other direction; it often requires a 
whole lifetime to acquire the virtues which are the 
opposite of the errors in which man has previously 
lived. Thus, first of all comes the life wherein one 
suffers, and whose tortures arouse a thirst for love. 
Then there is the life wherein one loves, wherein 
devotion to the creature teaches devotion to the 
Creator, wherein the virtues of love, its countless 
martyrdoms, its angelic hope, its joys followed by 



SERAPHITA 331 

sorrow, its patience, its resignation, excite the appe- 
tite for things divine. Then comes the life wherein 
one seeks in the silence the traces of the Word, 
wherein one becomes humble and charitable. Then 
the life wherein one desires. Lastly, the life wherein 
one prays. There is the everlasting South, there 
are the flowers, there is the harvest! The acquired 
qualities, which develop slowly within us, are the 
invisible bonds which bind our existences together, 
each to all the others, and which the soul alone 
remembers, for matter can recall nothing that is 
spiritual. The mind alone retains the tradition of 
what has gone before. That perpetual legacy of the 
past to the present and the present to the future is 
the secret of human geniuses : some have the gift 
of form, others the gift of number, others the gift of 
harmony. They are successive steps in the path- 
way of light. Yes, the man who possesses one of 
those gifts touches the infinite at one point. The 
Word, of which I here reveal a few words to you, 
that Word the earth has divided and subdivided, has 
ground to dust, and sown in her works, her doctrines, 
her poems. If some impalpable particle of it glistens 
upon a work, you say : ' That is great, that is true, 
that is sublime!' That trivial thing vibrates within 
you and assails the presentiment of heaven. To 
some, disease which separates us from the world; 
to others, solitude which brings us nearer God; to 
another, poetry in a word, whatever turns you 
back upon yourselves, smites you and crushes you, 
exalts or degrades you, is an echo of the divine 



332 SERAPHITA 

world. When a human being has drawn his first 
furrow straight, that suffices to assure the straight- 
ness of the others; a single thought deeply meditated, 
a single voice heard, a bitter pang, a single echo 
awakened by the Word within you, may transform 
your soul forever. 

"Everything leads to God; therefore there are 
many opportunities to find Him by walking straight 
before Him. When the blessed day arrives on which 
you set your feet upon the path and begin your 
pilgrimage, the earth will know nothing of it; it no 
longer understands you, you no longer understand 
each other, the earth is you. Men who attain a 
knowledge of these things, and who utter a few frag- 
ments of the true Word, find no place to rest their 
heads; they are hunted like wild beasts, and fre- 
quently perish on the scaffold to the great joy of the 
assembled populace, while the angels are opening 
the gates of heaven to them. Your destination, there- 
fore, will be a secret between you and God, as love 
is a secret between two hearts. You will be the 
buried treasure over which men hurrying for gold 
pass to and fro, not knowing that you are there. 
Thereupon, your existence becomes full of ceaseless 
activity, each of your acts has a meaning which bears 
some relation to God, just as in love your acts and 
your thoughts are full of the loved one; but love 
with its joys, love with its pleasures, limited by the 
senses, is an imperfect image of the infinite love that 
unites you to the celestial lover. All earthly joy is 
followed by sorrow, by discontent; if love is to be 



SERAPHITA 333 

unmarred by satiety, death must end it when it is 
most intense, and then you know nothing of its 
ashes; but on high God transforms our misery to 
ecstasy, joy multiplies by itself, it grows ever greater 
and knows no bounds. So, in the earthly life, 
ephemeral love is brought to an end by constant 
tribulations; whereas, in the spiritual life, the tribu- 
lations of a day are brought to an end by infinite 
joy. Your soul ceaselessly overflows with joy. You 
feel that God is near you, in you; He gives to all 
things a savor of holiness, He shines in your soul, He 
stamps you with His gentleness, He destroys your 
interest in the world for your own sake, and arouses 
your interest in it for His sake, giving you His power 
to wield. You do in His name the works which 
He inspires; you wipe away tears, you act for Him, 
you no longer have anything of your own, like 
Him, you love all creatures with unquenchable love; 
you would like them all to be moving toward Him, 
as a truly loving woman would like all the nations 
on earth to obey her well-beloved. 

" The last life, which is the summing-up of all the 
others, wherein all the powers are put forth and 
whose meritorious deeds are destined to open the 
sacred portal to the perfect being, is the life of 
prayer. Who can make you comprehend the gran- 
deur, the majesty, the might of prayer? May my 
voice find an echo in your hearts and change them! 
Be instantly what you will be after you have under- 
gone the tests! There have been privileged creatures, 
prophets, seers, messengers of God, martyrs, all those 



334 SERAPHITA 

who have suffered for the Word or proclaimed it; the 
souls of such men pass through the human spheres 
at a bound, and rise at once to prayer. So, too, with 
those who are devoured by the fire of faith. Be 
of the number of those brave souls. God suffers 
temerity, He loves to be taken by force, He never 
repels him who can find his way to Him. Be sure 
that desire, that torrent of your will, is so powerful 
in man, that a single tiny stream therefrom, emitted 
with force, may obtain everything, a single cry is 
often enough under the pressure of faith. Be of 
those beings, filled with force and will and love! Be 
of the victorious ones of earth! May the hunger 
and thirst for God seize upon you! Run to Him as 
the thirsty stag runs to the fountain; desire will 
provide you with its wings; tears, those flowers of 
repentance, will be like a celestial baptism from 
which your natures will come forth purified. Rise 
from the bosom of these waves to prayer. Silence 
and meditation are the efficient means to lead men 
to that path. God always makes Himself mani- 
fest to the solitary, meditative man. Thus will be 
brought to pass the necessary separation between 
the matter which has so long encompassed you in 
its darkness, and the spirit which is born in you and 
illumines you, for then it will shine with a clear 
light in your souls. Then your broken hearts will 
receive the light, will be inundated with it. You 
will no longer feel mere convictions but glorious cer- 
tainties. The poet expresses his thoughts, the wise 
man meditates, the just man acts; but he who takes 



SERAPHITA 335 

his stand on the brink of the divine world, prays; 
and his prayer is speech, thought, action, all in one! 
Yes, his prayer comprises everything, it contains 
everything, it perfects your natures by discovering 
the spirit and its progress within you. O fair and 
luminous daughter of all the human virtues, ark of 
the covenant between heaven and earth, sweet 
creature, in whom the lion and the dove are united, 
prayer will give you the key of heaven! Bold and 
pure as innocence, strong like all that is single 
and simple, this lovely, unconquerable queen rests 
upon the material world, she has taken possession 
of it ; for, like the sun, she encompasses it with a 
circle of light. The universe belongs to him who 
wills, to him who knows, to him who can pray; but 
he must will and know and be able, in a word, pos- 
sess strength, wisdom, and faith. Thus the prayer 
that results from so many tests is the consummation 
of all truths, of all powers, of all sentiments. Fruit of 
the laborious, progressive, constant development of 
all the natural properties quickened by the divine 
breath of the Word, it possesses a seductive activity, 
it is the supreme worship: not the material worship 
of images, nor the spiritual worship of formulas, but 
the worship of the divine world. We no longer 
utter prayers, prayer kindles within us, it is a fac- 
ulty which works by itself ; it has acquired that 
property of activity which raises it above mere 
forms : it binds the soul to God, with whom you 
unite as the roots of trees unite with the earth; 
your veins draw their supplies from the principles 



336 SERAPHITA 

of things, and you live the life of the worlds them- 
selves. Prayer imparts external conviction by en- 
abling you to penetrate the material world by virtue 
of the cohesion of all your faculties with elementary 
substances; it imparts internal conviction by devel- 
oping your essence and blending it with that of the 
spiritual worlds. 

"In order to command prayer of this sort, you 
must cast aside the flesh, acquire the purity of the 
diamond in the heat of the crucible, for this complete 
communication is attained only by absolute repose, 
by allaying all tempests. Yes, prayer, the veritable 
aspiration of the soul when wholly separated from 
the body, seizes upon all the forces and applies them 
to the constant and persistent union of the visible 
and the invisible. Possessing the faculty of praying 
without weariness, with love, with force, with con- 
viction, with intelligence, your spiritualized nature is 
soon endowed with power. Like a violent wind, or 
like the lightning, it traverses everything and shares 
the power of God. You have the quickness of mo- 
tion of the spirit ; in an instant you may be present 
in any country; you are transported, like the Word 
itself, from one end of the world to the other. There 
is harmony, and you contribute to it ; there is a 
light, and you see it ; there is a melody, and its 
accords find an echo within you. In that state, you 
will feel your intellect broaden and expand, and its 
insight reach to immense distances; in truth the 
spirit knows neither time nor space. Space and 
time are proportions created for matter; spirit and 



SERAPHITA 337 

matter have nothing in common. Although these 
processes are accomplished calmly and silently, 
without disturbance, without exterior movement, 
nevertheless, in prayer all is action, but earnest 
action, devoid of all substantiality, and reduced, like 
the motion of the worlds in space, to an invisible, 
pure force. It descends everywhere like the light, 
and gives life to souls which happen to be beneath 
its rays, as nature is beneath the sun. It revivifies 
virtue everywhere, purifies and sanctifies every act, 
peoples the solitude, affords a foretaste of everlast- 
ing bliss. When you have once known the ecstasy 
of divine intoxication engendered by your inward 
labors, then all is said ! when you once hold the 
lyre whereon men hymn to God, you will never lay 
it down. Hence the solitude in which the angelic 
spirits live, and their disdain for the things that 
afford joy to mortals. I say to you, they are 
stricken from the number of those who are to die; 
if they hear their language, they no longer under- 
stand their ideas; they are amazed at their move- 
ments, at what is called politics, at their physical 
and social laws; for them mysteries no longer exist, 
they know naught but truths. 

" They who have reached the point at which their 
eyes discern the blessed portal, and who, without a 
single backward glance, without a single regret, con- 
template the worlds and penetrate their destinies 
they hold their peace, wait, and endure their final 
trials; the most difficult is the last, the supreme 
virtue is resignation: to be in exile and to utter no 

22 



338 SERAPHITA 

complaint, to have lost all taste for the things of earth 
and to smile, to belong to God and to remain among 
men! Plainly you hear the voice crying: ' Onward ! 
onward !' Often in celestial visions angels descend 
and envelop you with their singing. Without a tear 
or a murmur you must watch them flying back to the 
hive. To complain would be to fall. Resignation is 
the fruit that ripens at the gate of heaven. How 
noble and lovely are the calm smile and untroubled 
brow of the resigned one ! Radiant is the light that 
adorns her forehead ! Whoever breathes the same 
air with her becomes a better man ! Her glance is 
penetrating and moves the heart. More eloquent in 
her silence than the prophet in his speech, she tri- 
umphs by her presence alone. She pricks up her 
ear like the faithful dog awaiting his master's coming. 
Stronger than love, more ardent than hope, greater 
than faith, she is the adorable maiden who lies there 
on the ground, guarding for a moment the palm she 
has won, and leaving there the imprint of her pure, 
white feet; and, when she is no longer there, men 
throng to the spot, and say: 'Look!' God keeps 
her as a figure at whose feet the forms and species 
of animality crouch to seek their path. At inter- 
vals, she scatters the light that streams from her 
hair, and men see; she speaks, and men hear, and 
all say to one another: 'A miracle!' Often she 
triumphs in the name of God; terrified men deny her 
and put her to death; she sheathes her sword and 
goes smiling to the stake, after saving nations. How 
many pardoned angels have passed from martyrdom 



SERAPHITA 339 

to heaven! Sinai, Golgotha, are neither in this place 
nor in that; the angel is crucified in all places, in all 
spheres. Sighs reach God's ears from every side. 
The earth on which we are is one of the ears of the 
harvest, mankind is one of the species planted in 
the vast field in which the flowers of heaven are cul- 
tivated. In fine, God is everywhere the same, and, 
by prayer, it is easy to reach Him." 

With these words, which fell as from the lips of 
another Hagar in the desert, but which, upon reach- 
ing the soul, stirred it to its depths like arrows dis- 
charged by the burning words of Isaiah, the strange 
being paused abruptly to collect her last remaining 
strength. Neither Wilfrid nor Minna dared to speak. 
Suddenly HE drew himself up to die. 

" O my God, thou soul of all things, whom I love 
for Thyself ! Judge and Father, measure an ardent 
love which has no measure save Thine infinite loving- 
kindness! Lend me Thine essence and Thy faculties 
that I may be more wholly Thine! Take me that I 
may no longer be myself. If I be not sufficiently 
pure, plunge me anew in the fiery furnace! If I be 
not of true metal, then make of me a nourishing 
ploughshare or a triumphant sword ! Vouchsafe me 
some glorious martyrdom wherein I may proclaim 
thy Word ! Reject my prayer, still will I bless Thy 
justness. If excess of love obtains in an instant that 
which is denied to patient, wearing toil, bear me 
away upon Thy chariot of fire! Whether Thou dost 
grant me the triumph or condemn me to fresh sor- 
rows, blessed be Thy name! But to suffer for Thee 



340 SERAPHITA 

is not that, too, a triumph? Take, seize, ravish, 
carry me away! Reject me, if Thou wilt! Thou 
art the Adored One, who can do nothing ill. Ah!" 
he exclaimed, after a pause, "the bonds are break- 
ing. Spotless spirits, sanctified flock, come forth 
from the abysses, fly over the surface of the waves 
of light! The hour has struck, come, assemble! 
Let us sing at the doors of the sanctuary, our sing- 
ing will drive away the last-remaining clouds. Let 
us unite our voices to hail the dawn of the day that 
knows no end. Behold the breaking of the true 
light ! Why may I not take my friends? Farewell, 
poor earth, farewell !" 



VII 



THE ASSUMPTION 

These last invocations were expressed neither by 
word, nor by glance, nor by gesture, nor by any 
of the signs which men use to communicate their 
thoughts, but as the soul speaks to itself; for, when 
Seraphita exhibited herself in her real nature, on the 
instant, her ideas ceased to be the slaves of human 
words. The vehemence of her last prayer had 
broken the bonds. Like a white dove, her soul 
remained for a moment perched upon that body 
whose exhausted substance was on the verge of 
annihilation. 

The aspiration of the soul heavenward was so con- 
tagious that Wilfrid and Minna did not discern death, 
so engrossed were they by the radiant sparks of life. 

They had fallen on their knees when he drew him- 
self up to turn toward his East, and they shared his 
ecstasy. 

The fear of the Lord, which creates man anew 
and cleanses him of his filth, had consumed their 
hearts. 

Their eyes were blind to earthly things, and were 
opened to the bright light from heaven. 
(34i) 



342 SERAPHITA 

Although trembling with awe at the thought of 
God, like some of those seers whom men call 
prophets, they held their ground like them when 
they found themselves within the ray, wherein the 
glory of the SPIRIT shone. 

The veil of flesh which had hidden it from them 
hitherto, insensibly faded away and allowed them to 
see the divine substance. 

They remained in the half-light of the breaking 
day whose feeble gleams prepared them to see the 
True Light, to hear the Living Word, and still to live. 

In that state, both of them began to realize the 
immeasurable distance that separates the things of 
earth from the things of heaven. 

LIFE, on whose brink they stood, pressing close 
to each other, trembling and illuminated, as two 
children stand in a sheltered spot, in the full glare 
of a conflagration, life offered no attraction to the 
senses. 

The ideas which they made use of to describe 
their vision to each other were to the things they 
saw what man's external senses may be to his soul, 
the material envelope of a divine essence. 

The SPIRIT was above them, he perfumed the air 
without odor, he was melodious without the aid 
of sounds; where they were, were neither surfaces 
nor angles nor air. 

They dared no longer question him or gaze upon 
him, and remained in his shadow as one stands in 
the burning rays of a tropical sun, fearing to raise 
one's eyes lest the sight be destroyed. 



SERAPHITA 343 

They knew that they were near him, but could 
not explain by what chance they were seated there, 
as if in a dream, on the frontier between the visible 
and the invisible, nor how it was that they could 
no longer see the visible but were able to see the 
invisible. 

They said to themselves: "If he touches us, we 
shall die!" But the SPIRIT was in the Infinite, and 
they knew not that neither time nor space exists 
in the Infinite, that they were separated from him 
by impassable chasms, although apparently he was 
close at hand. 

Their souls not being ready to receive in its en- 
tirety the knowledge of the faculties of that life, 
they had only confused perceptions of it, appro- 
priate to their weakness. 

Had it been otherwise, when the Living Word 
came, whose far-off sounds rang in their ears and 
whose meaning entered their soul as life is knit to 
the body, a single whisper of that Word would have 
absorbed them as a whirlwind of fire sweeps up a 
slender straw. 

They saw, therefore, only what their nature, sus- 
tained by the power of the Spirit, permitted them 
to see; they heard only that which they could safely 
hear. 

Despite those limitations, they shuddered when 
the voice of the suffering soul rang out, the hymn of 
the SPIRIT, awaiting life and imploring it with a cry. 

That cry froze them to the very marrow of their 
bones. 



344 SERAPHITA 

The SPIRIT knocked at the SACRED PORTAL. 

"What dost thou wish?" answered a CHOIR, 
whose question echoed through space. 

"To go to God." 

"Hast thou conquered?" 

" I have conquered the flesh by abstinence, I 
have conquered the false word by silence, I have 
conquered false knowledge by humility, I have con- 
quered pride by charity, I have conquered the earth 
by love, I have paid my tribute by suffering, I have 
purified myself in the fire of faith, I have longed 
for life by prayer: I wait in adoration, and I am 
resigned." 

No reply was heard. 

" Blessed be God!" exclaimed the SPIRIT, believ- 
ing that he was to be cast out. 

Tears flowed from his eyes and fell like a shower 
of dew on the two kneeling witnesses, who shud- 
dered before the justice of God. 

Suddenly the trumpets rang out for the victory 
won by the ANGEL in that last test, the triumphant 
strains rolled through space like an echo, filled it 
and shook the universe, which Wilfrid and Minna 
felt to be small beneath their feet. They trembled, 
suffering agony in their apprehension of the mystery 
about to be performed. 

In truth, a great commotion took place as if the 
eternal legions were putting themselves in motion, 
arranged in spiral columns. The worlds flew round 
and round like clouds whirled away by a fierce wind. 
It was very rapid. 



SERAPHITA 345 

Suddenly the veils were torn aside, they saw on 
high something like a star, incomparably more bril- 
liant than the brightest of material stars, which 
left its place, descended like a thunderbolt, still 
gleaming like the lightning-flash, and caused what 
they had hitherto taken for the LIGHT to grow pale. 

It was the messenger who brought the glad 
tidings, and whose helmet bore a flame of life for 
a plume. 

He left in his wake furrows which were instantly 
filled by the flood of individual rays through which 
he passed. 

He bore a palm-branch and a sword, he touched 
the SPIRIT with the palm. The SPIRIT was trans- 
figured, his white wings unfolded noiselessly. 

The communication of the LIGHT which trans- 
formed the SPIRIT into a SERAPH, the putting on of 
his glorious form, a celestial armor, were accom- 
panied by such dazzling rays that the two witnesses 
were paralyzed. 

Like the three apostles to whom Jesus appeared, 
Wilfrid and Minna felt that the weight of their bodies 
forbade a complete and cloudless intuition of the 
WORD and the TRUE LIFE. 

They realized the bareness of their souls and 
could measure the insignificance of their light by 
comparing it with the halo of the seraph in which 
they found themselves involved like a degrading 
blot upon its splendor. 

They were seized with an ardent desire to plunge 
once more into the mire of the earth to undergo the 



346 SERAPHITA 

necessary trials there, in order that they might some 
day offer triumphantly at the SACRED PORTAL the 
words uttered by the radiant seraph. 

That angel knelt before the SANCTUARY which he 
was able at last to behold, face to face, and said, 
indicating them: 

" Permit them to see more. They love the Lord 
and will proclaim his Word." 

In response to that prayer a veil fell. Whether 
the unknown force which weighed upon the wit- 
nesses momentarily blotted out their corporeal 
forms, or caused their spirits to rise above and 
without them, certain it is that they felt inwardly 
something like a separation of the pure from the 
impure. 

The seraph's tears rose about them in the shape 
of a vapor which concealed the lower worlds from 
them, enveloped them, bore them on, caused them 
to forget all earthly meanings, and gave them the 
power to comprehend the meaning of divine things. 

The True Light appeared, it illumined all creation, 
which seemed a barren waste to them when they 
saw the spring from which the terrestrial, spiritual, 
and divine worlds derive motion. 

Each world had a centre to which all points upon 
its surface converged. The worlds themselves were 
points converging to the centre of their systems. 
Each system had its centre in the direction of vast 
celestial regions which communicated with the flam- 
ing inexhaustible motive power of all that is. 

Thus, from the greatest to the smallest worlds, 



SERAPHITA 347 

and from the smallest of worlds to the smallest frac- 
tion of the beings who composed it, everything had 
its own individuality, and yet all were one. 

What was the design of that Being, unchangeable 
in His essence and His attributes, who transmitted 
them without losing them, who manifested them 
outside of Himself without separating from them, 
who rendered all those creations outside of Himself 
immutable in their essence and mutable in their 
forms? The two guests summoned to that festival 
could see only the order and arrangement of beings 
and admire only the immediate end. None but the 
angels could go beyond, become acquainted with the 
means, and understand the final end. 

But that which those two elect were allowed to con- 
template, that of which they brought back testimony 
that illumined their souls forever, was the proof of 
the action of worlds and beings, the knowledge of the 
efforts which they put forth to attain the result. 

They heard the different parts of the Infinite com- 
posing one living melody; and each time that the 
melody made itself felt like a mighty respiration, 
the worlds, impelled by that unanimous movement, 
inclined toward the gigantic Being who, from His 
impenetrable centre, sent everything forth and drew 
everything back to Him. 

This incessant alternation of voices and silence 
seemed to be the measure of the sacred hymn which 
resounded and was prolonged in secula seculorum. 

Thereupon Wilfrid and Minna understood some of 
the mysterious words of the being who had appeared 



348 SERAPHITA 

to each of them on earth in the form that made him 
comprehensible to that one, to Minna Seraphitus, to 
Wilfrid Seraphita, when they saw that everything 
there was homogeneous. 

Light gave birth to melody, melody gave birth 
to light, colors were light and melody, motion was 
number endowed with speech; in a word, everything 
was resonant, diaphanous, and mobile; so that as 
each thing penetrated every other thing, the vast 
expanse was unobstructed, and the angels could 
fly whithersoever they would in the depths of the 
Infinite. 

They realized the puerility of the human sciences 
concerning which he had spoken to them. 

It was to their eyes a landscape with no horizon 
line, an abyss into which a consuming desire forced 
them to plunge; but, fast bound to their wretched 
bodies, they had the desire without the power. 

The seraph lightly spread his wings to take his 
flight, and no longer turned his face toward them: 
he had nothing more in common with the earth. 

He flew upward: the vast spread of his gleaming 
plumage covered the two seers as with a kindly 
shadow, which enabled them to raise their eyes and 
see him borne away in his glory, attended by the 
joyous archangel. 

He ascended like a radiant sun coming forth from 
the bosom of the waves; but, more majestic than the 
planet, and reserved for a nobler destiny, he was not 
to be confined, like creatures of inferior mould, to a 
circular life; he followed the line of the Infinite, and 



SERAPHITA 349 

held on his way without deviation toward a fixed 
centre, there to plunge into his everlasting life, there 
to receive in his faculties and in his essence the 
power to enjoy through love, and the gift of under- 
standing through wisdom. 

The spectacle suddenly disclosed to the eyes of 
the two seers crushed them beneath its immensity, 
for they felt that they were specks whose insignifi- 
cance could be compared only to the smallest fraction 
which the infinity of divisibility permits man to con- 
ceive, side by side with the infinity of numbers which 
God alone can look upon, as He looks upon Himself. 

What abasement and what grandeur in those two 
points, strength and love, which the seraph's first 
desire placed like two rings to unite the immensity 
of the lower spheres with the immensity of the 
higher spheres! 

They understood the invisible bonds by which the 
material worlds are attached to the spiritual worlds. 
Recalling the sublime efforts of the noblest human 
geniuses, they recognized the elemental principle of 
melody, as they listened to the songs of heaven 
which imparted the sensations of colors, of per- 
fumes, of thought, and which recalled the innumera- 
ble details of all creations, as earthly music revives 
an infinity of memories of love. 

Having reached, by virtue of an incredible quick- 
ening of their faculties, a point for which language 
has no name, they were able to cast their eyes for 
a moment upon the divine world. There was the 
carnival. 



350 SERAPHITA 

Myriads of angels flew about in unison, without 
confusion, all alike, all different, simple as the rose 
of the field, immense as worlds. 

Wilfrid and Minna could not see them come or take 
flight; they suddenly studded infinite space with their 
presence, as stars shine out in the invisible ether. 

The sparkling of their united diadems flooded 
the void with light, like the flames in the sky at the 
moment when day is breaking among our mountains. 

Waves of light flowed from their hair, and their 
motions caused trembling undulations like the ripples 
of a phosphorescent sea. 

The two seers descried the seraph indistinctly 
amid the immortal legions whose wings were like 
the immense plumage of a forest swayed by the 
breeze. 

Instantly, as if all the arrows from a quiver were 
discharged at once, the spirits swept away with 
a breath all vestiges of his former shape; as the 
seraph ascended, he became purer; soon he seemed 
to them no more than a faint outline of what they 
had seen when he was transfigured : an outline of 
fire casting no shadow. 

As he rose, from circle to circle he received a new 
gift; then the symbol of his election was transmitted 
to the superior sphere, toward which he ascended, 
growing ever purer. 

None of the voices were silent, the hymn was 
diffused through space in all its variations. 

" Hail to him who ascends living! Come hither, 
flower of the worlds! diamond purged by the fire of 



SERAPHITA 351 

sorrow! spotless pearl, chaste desire, a new bond 
between heaven and earth, be thou light! O con- 
quering spirit, queen of the world, fly to thy crown! 
Thou who hast triumphed over earth, receive thy 
diadem! Be ours!" 

The virtues of the angel reappeared in their 
beauty. 

His first longing for heaven reappeared, graceful 
as blooming childhood. 

His acts, like constellations, adorned him with 
their splendor. 

His acts of faith shone forth resplendent, like the 
hyacinth of heaven, the color of the stars' fire. 

Charity tossed him its oriental pearls, lovely gar- 
nered tears. 

The divine love surrounded him with its roses, 
and his pious resignation, by virtue of its snowy 
whiteness, took from him every vestige of earth. 

In the eyes of Wilfrid and Minna he soon became 
a mere speck of flame which glowed brightly, while 
its movement was lost in the melodious acclamation 
that welcomed his entrance into heaven. 

The celestial strains brought tears to the eyes of 
the two outcasts. 

Suddenly a deathly silence, which spread like a 
dark veil from the first to the last sphere, threw 
Wilfrid and Minna into a state of indescribable sus- 
pense. 

At that moment, the seraph disappeared in the 
bosom of the Sanctuary, where he received the gift 
of life everlasting. 



352 SERAPHITA 

There was a movement of profound adoration 
which filled the hearts of the two seers with ecstasy 
mingled with terror. 

They felt that everyone fell prostrate in the divine 
spheres, in the spiritual spheres, and in the worlds 
of darkness. 

The angels bent the knee in honor of his glory, 
the spirits bent the knee in testimony of their im- 
patience; the denizens of the dark abysses bent the 
knee, shuddering with terror. 

A loud shout of joy gushed forth as from a spring 
that has been choked up and begins anew to send 
forth its myriads of sparkling sheaf-like jets, wherein 
the sun plays, studding the luminous waves with 
diamonds and with pearls; and at the same moment, 
the seraph reappeared, blazing with light, and cried: 

"ETERNAL! ETERNAL! ETERNAL!" 

The worlds heard him and recognized him; he 
pierced them as God pierces them, and took pos- 
session of the Infinite. 

The seven divine worlds were stirred by his voice 
and answered him. 

At that moment, there was a great commotion as 
if whole stars, purified, were ascending in clouds of 
dazzling light to become eternal. 

Mayhap the seraph had received for his first 
mission the duty of calling to God the creations 
reached by the Word. 

But already the sublime ALLELUIA rang in Wil- 
frid's and Minna's ears like the last echo of a 
melody that is ended. 



SERAPHITA 353 

Already the celestial beams were fading like the 
brilliant tints of the sun when he sinks to rest in 
his swaddling-clothes of purple and gold. 

Impurity and death seized their prey once more. 

Returning to the bonds of the flesh from which 
their spirits had been momentarily set free by a 
sublime slumber, the two mortals felt as one feels 
in the morning following a night crowded with bril- 
liant dreams, the memory of which still hovers in the 
soul, although the body is not conscious of them, 
and human language is powerless to describe them. 

The profound darkness in which they then found 
themselves was the sphere in which the sun of the 
visible worlds revolves. 

" Let us descend," said Wilfrid to Minna. 

" Let us do what he bade us do," she replied. 
"After seeing whole worlds in motion toward God, 
we know the straight path. Our starry diadems 
are above." 

They went down into the dark depths, re-entered 
the dust of the inferior worlds, and suddenly es- 
pied the Earth like a subterranean mass, illuminated 
by the light which they bore in their souls, and which 
still surrounded them with a cloud wherein were re- 
flected dimly the fading harmonies of heaven. The 
spectacle was the same that long ago met the inward 
eyes of the prophets. Ministers of diverse creeds, 
all alleged to be true, kings all consecrated by power 
and dread, warriors and great men portioned out the 
nations by mutual consent, learned and rich tower- 
ing above the suffering, tumultuous populace, and 
23 



354 SERAPHITA 

crushing them beneath their feet: all were attended 
by their wives and servants, all were clad in robes 
of gold, silver, or azure, bedecked with pearls and 
precious stones torn from the bowels of the earth, 
from the depths of ocean, for which mankind had 
long spent its energies, sweating and blaspheming. 
But all that wealth and splendor built with blood 
were like old rags and tatters in the eyes of the two 
outcasts. 

" Why stand ye there, in motionless lines?" cried 
Wilfrid. 

They made no reply. 

" Why stand ye there, in motionless lines?" 

They made no reply. 

Wilfred laid his hands upon them and cried: 

"Why stand ye there, in motionless lines?" 

With a simultaneous movement they all put aside 
their robes and displayed their withered bodies, 
eaten by worms, corrupt, crumbling to dust, ravaged 
by horrible diseases. 

"You lead the nations to death," said Wilfrid to 
them. " You have debased the earth, perverted 
the Word, prostituted justice. Having eaten the 
grass in the pastures, you turn now upon the lambs 
and slaughter them! Do you deem yourselves justi- 
fied in displaying your sores? I shall warn those of 
my brethren who can still hear the Voice, so that 
they may go and allay their thirst at the springs 
which you have hidden." 

"Let us reserve our strength for prayer," said 
Minna; " your mission is not that of the prophets, 



SERAPHITA 355 

nor of the righter of wrongs, nor of God's mes- 
senger. As yet, we are only upon the borders of 
the first sphere, let us try to cross the intervening 
space upon the wings of prayer." 

" You shall be all my love!" 

" You shall be all my strength!" 

" We have been vouchsafed a glimpse of the ex- 
alted mysteries; we are, each to the other, the only 
beings on earth to whom joy and sorrow are compre- 
hensible; therefore let us pray; we know the road, 
let us walk in it." 

" Give me your hand," said the maiden; " if we 
walk always together, the way will be less hard and 
less long to me." 

"With none but you," replied the man, "can I 
pass through the vast solitude without indulging 
myself in a complaint." 

"And we will go to heaven together," said she. 

The clouds gathered and formed a dark canopy. 
Suddenly the two lovers found themselves kneeling 
beside a body which old David was guarding against 
all curious eyes, and which he was determined to 
bury with his own hands. 

Without, the first summer of the nineteenth cen- 
tury was bursting forth in its magnificence. The 
two lovers fancied that they heard a voice in the 
sunbeams. They inhaled the perfume of a celes- 
tial spirit in the new-born flowers, and said to each 
other, hand in hand : 

" That boundless ocean gleaming below us in the 
sunlight is an image of what we saw above." 



356 SERAPHITA 

"Where are you going?" Monsieur Becker asked 
them. 

"We are going to God," they replied: "Come 
with us, father." 

Geneva and Paris, December i833-November 1835. 



LIST OF ETCHINGS 



VOLUME XLII 

MM 

THE ELIXIR OF LONG LIFE Fronts. 

JESUS CHRIST IN FLANDERS 16 

IN AQUILINA'S DRESSING-ROOM 72 

AT THE FOOT OF THE FALBERG 145 

AN EVENING AT THE PASTOR'S 248 



42 C. H ., J. C., etc., N. & R. 357 



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